The Guardian from London, Greater London, England on March 8, 1991 · 37
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The Guardian from London, Greater London, England · 37

London, Greater London, England
Issue Date:
Friday, March 8, 1991
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ARTS I Slaves to the rhythm (left to right) . . . Charlie Watts, Rlngo Starr, John Bonham, Phil Collins, Keith Moon and Mo Tucker Advemtarers in the skims trade THE GUARDIAN Friday March 8 1991 Dim, manic, noisy, and rarely women. But drummers aren't all troll-like, says Adam Sweeting VI ITY the poor fellow be- I If hind the traps. "Drum- 1 1 mers are always much .U too old and thick, and drunks into the bargain," Ian McCulloch of Echo and The Bunnymen once grumbled. The group had tried to do without a drummer for as long as possible by using Echo the drum machine. Leeds Go this ts the Sisters Of Mercy likewise al ways felt a good deal safer with the mechanical Doktor Avalanche than with any dubious human substitute. Where vocalists are permitted to be mystical or poetic or closet Shakespearean actors, and guitarists like to play the brainy writerarranger, and keyboard players have even occasionally been known to read music, the available roles for the drummer are limited. Even bass players are accorded a couple of notches more respect The drummer must take his pick from a humiliatingly limited array of possibilities. He can be dun, eccentric, noisy, sociopathic, or very occasionally a woman. The way modern recording technology is going, he may soon not need to exist, given cheapo drum machine technology and the ubiquity of sampling. The typecasting of drummers is a source of both pain and amusement to practitioners of the noble art of skin-thwacking. The Cure's Lol Tolhurst eventually tired of being the butt of every known practical joke, and quit to form an outfit called Presence. Bill Berry, of comparatively cerebral Georgia rock- Tom SutcRffe on Tim Albery's Benvenuto Cellini, an epic shot through with comedy Outsized ears and a large red hat TIM ALBERY, whose staging of The Trojans was a British operatic highlight of the eighties, has found Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini a much harder nut to crack. As with Berlioz's Beatrice And Benedick for the ENO last season, Cellini in Amsterdam maintained Albery's collaboration with designers Tom Cairns and Antony McDonald. The significant differences were the language (original French instead of translation), the fact that the con- Brlatoltourlng Ken Rowat Jack Yeats THIRTY-FOUR years after his death it's still extremely difficult to assess the achievement of Jack Yeats younger brother of W B with confidence. There are those who love his flickering brushwork and the seemingly reckless abandon with which, in his later paintings particularly, he took subjects from ordinary Irish life racehorses, travellers, musicians, or just people standing about, and worked them into wild landscapes and settings which often verge on the mythical, if not apocalyptic. Others see his painting as impulsive, untidy gesticulation. Of course, it's a common fallacy to equate lively brushwork with frenzied application or lack of control (Van Gogh never dabbed on his paint like Kirk Douglas) and perhaps only those who have themselves painted professionally can appreciate fully that Yeats's violent later style is the product of long years of development involving acute observation and GARRISON KEILLOR'S I I AMERICAN aV RADIO COMPANY1 LjSjiw with special guests . . BARRY CRYER & ELIZABETH WELCH :;.J. XM&$& TOMORROW ONLY . AWm. 1 1PM BROADCAST LIVE TO THE USA ff 7.45pm sold out i ,fiiTif ll"' ROYALTY THEATRE I II I H Portugal Street, London WC2 ' ' Dave Clark could bit the skins ers R.E.M., is as highly-evolved as a drummer can be, but this has only served to open his eyes to the dire prognosis facing the snare-bashing lifer. Berry recalls a popular drummer-joke. "What do you call a guy that hangs out with musicians?" The answer being of course ... "A drummer." Although R.E.M. all switched instruments to record their forthcoming album Out Of Time, giving Berry a chance to dabble on bass or guitar, history has left its baleful stamp on him. "I'm definitely the least intelli gent guy in this band," he insists. "That's why I'm the drummer. If I was smart, I'd have been playing guitar. Drummers are dumb." Drummers tend to survive, ductor was an outsider and not the opera company's music director, and the choreographer, Ian Spink. The style of the CairnsMo-Donald sets is modern German-influenced, spacious and abstract without architectural details but quite romantic in the starlit night sky backdrop. A small room shaped like a wall-safe provided a sort of inner stage for the opening scenes between the Papal treasurer's daughter Teresa and the flamboyant sculptor Cellini, whom technical know-how as well as intuitive leaping. Nonetheless Yeats was a brave taker of risks, and the way he cast aside conventional modes including modernism in general (which he knew all about) and went his own visionary way is reminiscent of his exact contemporary, the sprawling novelist John Cow-per Powys. If, in company with many artists and critics (including myself) you find that Yeats is not your cup of tea, study his horse's head in Come (1950); if nothing else it demonstrates his virtuosity and points up the mysterious nature of imaginative representation, the strange dichotomy between the substantiality of the medium and intimations of other, more elusive, aspects of experience. Certainly Yeats is the greatest painter Ireland has produced; whether he amounts to more than that is a matter for continuing debate. This commendable retrospective of Yeats's later paintings is the first substantial showing of his work for 20 years and a timely opportunity for reassessing an artist who epitomises idiosyncratic intensity of vision. Jack B Yeats: at the Arnol- fini, Bristol, until March 24, then touring to London ana The Hague, with his arms crossed and went though. Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts remain heroic yet quaint archetypes of the "Rock Drummer", and we are unlikely to hear their like again. Here were two obligingly self-contained individuals, often capable of delighting the press with some deadpan aside (like Ringo's assertion that the Ma-harishi's Himalayan peace camp reminded him of Butlins.) Vital to their professional survival has been the fact that neither Watts nor Starr ever aspired to stardom, nor did they attempt to muscle in on the songwriting duties, or more importantly, the royalties. They left these to the stellar duos in charge of their respective bands (JaggerRichards, LennonMcCartney). she eagerly prefers to her father's choice, Fieramosca. Costumes mix periods: Bal-ducci, her father, is as medieval as his attitudes; Teresa is 16th century; the amorous rivals could be the era of Cellini or present-day; the foundry workers are modern, as are the Pope and his tame chorus of cardinals. Props are equally "unauthentic", including a dusty old telly and black leather swivel chair in Cellini's workshop. The Roman carnival is a chance for some Ipswichtouring M Grosvenor Myer The Double Dealer "CRITICS, avaunt!" wrote Con-greve in the prologue to The Double Dealer, "For you are fish of prey, And feed, like sharks, upon an infant play." Gemma Eddington does not include this preamble in her production for the Wolsey in Ipswich, presumably confident that her fine, lively and stylish version will need no such pessimistic invocation. It is, of course, a Restoration Comedy; and there is, indeed, much rich comic invention and characterisation. But there is no excessive straining for period style, but rather a sense of a real society, whose would-be wits, Andy Greenhalgh and Deborah Cornelius's Lord and Lady Froth and Michael Mears' Mr Brisk, are believable pseuds instead of the usual mincing fops. Paul Eddington is pathetically vulnerable in the stock role of deceived old husband, and Susie Blake memorably unpleasant as his sharp-tongued and self-satisfied younger lady (not, though, as much younger as she would like to think). But this is a comedy where the comic mode is muted. There is a genuine sense of evil in the machinations of the malevolent characters, and the main weight of this version falls here. Steven Mann is a thoroughly satisfactory smiling villain, the double-dealing machinator of the title, Machiavellian schemer left over from Jacobean tragedy, motivated as much by senseless misan thropy and love of intrigue as by any desire for mere advancement for himself. He is, ultimately, effectively on to be a successful businessman Then there is the tradition of the drummer as maniac. Keith Moon, celebrated "loon" of rock history and archetypal driver of Rolls-Royces into swimming pools, is the obvious role model here. "You make a living playing like this?" inquired an incredulous Philly Joe Jones (iconic skinsman from the Miles Davis Quintet), observing Moon's boombastic technique at close quarters. Coming a close second is the equally late John Bonham, a man whose appetite for self-destruction was as gargantuan as his much-sampled drum sound. Needless to say, there have always been great exceptions, proving that drumming need be neither ignoble nor a job for troll-like retards. The likes of bizarre masks: giant ears and other body-parts, as well as a huge teetering red hat and the send-up of Balducci in a mime about Midas's ears evokes Picasso's Pierrot. The major difficulty in Amsterdam is the size and remoteness of the stage. Peter Hirsch, conducting, never managed to whip up much enthusiasm from the chorus. One never felt that the stage was crowded, surely essential for the Carnival. And Hirsch seemed very suspicious of the vulgar frustrated by the matter-of-factly decent Mr Careless of Malcolm Browning. Nichola McAuliffe as the raging, adulterous Lady Touchwood, at once the plotter's willing assistant and napless victim, gives what is perhaps the outstanding performance in this altogether excellent production. At the Wolsey until March 16; then touring for seven weeks to Guildford. Cardiff. Bath. Shef field, Birmingham, Belfast, araajora. Elizabeth Hall Meirion Bowen Bartok Quartets THE Alban Berg Quartet has embarked on a complete cycle of the Bartok Quartets, combining them with the three Mozart composed to serve the musical urges of the cello-playing King of Prussia (his last works for the medium, in fact). The elegance and suavity of the Berg team's playing greatly suited Mozart' 8 D major quartet (K575), where the composer had interwoven a necessarily elaborate cello part into a subt-lely constructed web of string writing. If this quartet written at a time when the composer was creatively at a low ebb amounted nearly to MozarUan self parody, its performance here inspired not merely respect but enthusiasm for such an impeccably polished accomplishment The minuet and finale sounded particularly effusive in this reading, as if Mozart was suddenly getting -quite involved with the work. In Bartok's youthful, ambitious First String Quartet (1909), the urgent momentum supplied by the Berg team proved a good corrective to the discoursive tendencies of the Simon Phillips, Billy Cobham, or Yes's Bill Bruford have introduced a super-cerebral technocracy to the rhythm section, for better or worse. The Grateful Dead's Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart have evolved an entire percussion-philosophy of their own. Women can wield the sticks with the best of them. Sheila E brought glamour and panache to Prince's bands, and Debbi Peterson put some steel behind The Bangles. The Velvet Underground's Mo Tucker is one of tiie most revered skmspersons in rock history. Others were not what they seemed. Dave Clark, leader of his own celebrated Five, apparently epitomised the loll-ing-tongued vacuity widely ac- energy needed to bring the piece off: his self-conscious and rather pernickety style of conducting achieved some delicate prettiness, but little impact. ' With underpowered chorus and optimistic casting, it was no surprise that the Dutch press and public were snooty about the show. Lynne Dawson as Teresa has the right character, though not the ideal volume. Eirian James as Ascanio is very good in trousers, with youthful commitment, though too little vocal colour. The best performer was David Kuebler in the very demanding and sometimes stratospheric title role. He was also the only singer with really good French. The real surprise was Al- score. Thus the contrapuntal first movement never became bogged down, nor did its logic seem to have convoluted. Its internal tensions found a natural release when it accelerated into the scherzo: even so these performers managed to contain the fiery passions of the finale. Such reserve rather hindered the impact of Bartok's mature Fourth Quartet (1928), where the composer constantly took things to extreme whether it be dynamic levels, string sonorities or contrasts of formal simplicity and complexity. No question that these players had a firm technical grasp on the piece they were notably exact in ensemble through the continuous pizzicato writing of the fourth movement but their response to the savagery of the finale was somewhat muted and even the ardour of the wonderfully em-belished cello solo in the third movement the emotional apex of the work was held in check Bartok burst into new vistas with these quartets, but the Bergs treated them as if thev were slightly delinquent members of the classic quartet family. O The AWan Berg Quartet Bartok Cycle continues on March is and May, 2& details 071928 8800. The Vortex John Fordham Derek Bailey DEREK BAILEY, the tall, bony, faintly preoccupied-looking im provising guitarist is now in his 61st year and has devoted himself to music without premeditation or rehearsal for most of the last 30. Beginning as an orthodox jazz and studio guitarist, he has evolved since tne sixties a uniaue and inimitable tech nique in which conventional cepted as the drummer's birth right. Although able to play with his arms crossed, he seemed capable of only a crass on-the-beat thump, grinning idiotically into the camera with rows of pearly white tombstone gnashers. Yet this same Clark had the business nous to buy up and subseouentlv repackage the revered Sixties pop show Ready steady Go!, and it was the new- look tycoon-style cianc who mounted the stage musical Time, with Saint Cliff, the holo graphic Sir Larry Olivier and all. The drummer as business man . . . here was a disturbing prospect indeed, and one liable to upset the entire balance of the recording industry. They'd be writing songs next Sure enough, along came Phil uoluns. Stepping cneeruy out of the shadows, once Peter Ga briel had quit Genesis, Collins . swiftly established nimseu as all-round singer, writer, musi cian and (subsequently) actor. Although somewhat squat and unpreposessing, comns has cornered a vast global market in Little Man Who Has Known Sorrow albums. Clearly, drummers had come a long way. To further exploit their new-found civil rights. Don Henley emerged from the debris of The Eagles to offer the spectacle of a tub-thumper with a social philosophy, equipped to speak out on tne major issues of our tune. Already known for his ach ing-throated balladeerinK on the likes of Desperado or Hotel California, Henley went on to berate the irresponsible media m Duly Laundry, to plough a poignant pop-culture furrow with The Boys Of Summer, and to question the validity of the Reagan adtainistration in The End Of The Innocence. Henley must be lavourite to oecome the first percussionist inside the White House, unless Motor- head s Philthy Animal Taylor gets there first. bery's failure to obtain sharply focused acting. Un like The Trojans, where a de- cons tructionist approach never got in the way of press ing the ngnt emotional buttons, Cellini was surprisingly uncertain and approximate in characterisa tion. It's true that Albery hadn't warmed to the ripe Shakespearian comedy of Be atrice And Benedick at the ENO. Cellini is also an epic shot through with comedy. But Albery hadn't made up his mind what it was really about Part romantic self-portrait of the composer, with a good dose ot swashbuckling and some ideas thrown in about the perse cuted creative artist, it ought to nave appealed to Albery's team but evidently didn't. guitar aesthetics are exchanged tor melodic shapes that sometimes resemble serial music, abrasive plectrum methods that suggest the strings are being rubbed with a wire brush, tight, high sounds hit near the bridge, and glittering eruptions of harmonics. Though Bailey often plays solo, he prefers to prod other improvisers with this formidable collection of broken rules. and this week at the Vortex he performed for three nights with a variety of guests, including the powerful South African per- j cussionists ineoe upere ana Louis Moholo. On Tuesday, it was the turn of less obviously jazz-derived performers, no tably singer Vanessa Mackness and violinist ran wacnsmann, and the saxophonist John Butcher. All-in improvised group performances are sometimes a iumble of blurred detail and missed opportuniaes, out it was the quartet set that produced the most attractive music despite Wacnsmann sustaining several stretcnes oi gracenu slow lyricism over plangent, echoing chords in a duo with Bailev. But Vanessa Mackness, an inventive vocalist who combines the solemn purity of a straight singing lesson with abstract chatter, budgerigar chirpings, ghoulish groans and manic yodelling, sounded at her most relaxed and considered in the larger group, where the dynam ics weren't so dependent on her entire arsenal. By its second piece, the group had developed tne improvisers engaging equivalent of swing, with Bailey's crabby chord-work, Wachsmann's supple lines and shimmering tone, Mackness's kaleidoscopic monologues and Butcher's growling, Evan Parker-like tenor bursts establishing the kind of satisfying balance that a confirmed subversive like Bailey would probably have considered sacrilegious. ' irM irifiyrwiffliBT . i rau mica uuun: iiiuiu um.ii- hoi ventral Qnnncnrori hu Rritieh ftae ac nr aI PIS!!! 3 onuioir toes. . mir rnmmnnitu inunluofnont nrnorammA

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