Saturday, October 23, 2010

In the past week we have been to two music events - one of which was mostly all talk, go figure Oh Constant Reader.

Last Saturday we saw Stephen Sondheim interviewed on the stage of the Festival Hall by Jude Kelly. I have never seen an event like this at the Festival Hall and I'm not sure the space served the event well but Sondheim at 80 has quite a few stories to tell and he was as entertaining, analytical and candid as ever.

He also proved adept at gently deflating Kelly's over-articulated analysis of some of his themes, he's been to the interview rodeo so many times he must be used to having to parry such thesis'.

There were occasional snatches from his scores and Sondheim also was wryly amused at the mismatching slide show that was shown while the song played. The slides were from his shows in chronological order - but the songs were not. It would have been better had the visuals gone with what we were hearing (the best disconnect was "Being Alive" played over pictures from SWEENEY TODD!) but Sondheim laughingly said after one such interlude that it was a brilliant idea for a musical, one where the songs had nothing to do with what was happening on stage - actually Steve I think I have seen some dog shows like that!

The show was to coincide with the publication of his first collection of lyrics with added analysis of his process and I bought a pre-signed copy, it's already proving to be a great "dipping-in" book.
On Wednesday we chomped our way through the usual uninspired Jazz Cafe food just in time for the start of Gavin Creel's solo show. There was a connection too as Gavin appeared in the first production of Sondheim's troubled last show BOUNCE (which will play the Menier next year in the re-written guise of ROAD SHOW).

Gavin was returning to London after his recent run in the wondrous revival of HAIR at the Gielgud Theatre but now he was not hiding behind his beads and Claude wig but out there on his own performing his own songs. Gavin proved to be as captivating a presence as himself then when he is playing a character.
Gavin has one album and one e.p. under his belt and a selection of recently-written songs that will be the basis for an album hopefully next year. I was hearing all the songs for the first time and they impressed me with their from-the-heart lyrics and great melodies. I liked "For Nancy" a no-doubt autobiographical song of a son coming out to his mother, "Radio Lover" which is his hymn to pop music, "Might Still Happen", "Love Fell Down" and "Hot Ohio" which he dedicated to a former schoolfriend who moved to London and was a few tables down from us. He also has a delightful presence on stage - chatty and irreverent.

He attempted a cover version of George Michael's "Faith" which was charming, mainly because he dried on the chorus lyrics twice! He fared better with his own take on the dreaded "I KIssed A Girl".

We hung around long enough to tell him how much we enjoyed the show and to tell him belatedly how much we loved HAIR and we had seen him in New York on the eve of Snowmageddon. Bearing in mind he had just come off after a 90 minute show he couldn't have been more charming and gracious. He is hoping to be back next year with the new album and it will be a delight to see him again.

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