Wednesday 19 April 2017

Loads of superb live music, some classic cinema, a plethora of British art and some dramatic theatre...

10th April - 17th April 2017

This week's blog includes the bank holiday Monday's activities too and will be the last one for a few weeks as we head off on our belated honeymoon, however it is a packed one, so let's crack on shall we?...


Monday night's excursion took us to Hammersmith to catch a bona-fide legend live.

Mr Culture last saw Sting on the 'Mercury Rising' tour at the Royal Albert Hall back in 1996, and with the release of his new album '57th & 9th' which also marked his return to the rock genre was looking forward to seeing him in action again.

This time however Mrs Culture was in tow along with big bro.

For this visit we had standing tickets in the stalls as they had removed the downstairs seats, and unlike a lot of other venues the Apollo has a raked floor so sight lines are not an issue.

Around eight-ish Sting casually walked on stage and announced he was going to play a song, and commenced 'Heading South On The Great North Road' an acoustic track from the new album, aided by his son Joe Sumner, afterwards Sting then announced his son would be playing a few songs and left the stage to him.

Understandably he sounds an awful lot like his dad and played a few solo songs which sounded quite good, for his last song he was joined by the support act proper, The Last Bandoleros.

They're a country rock outfit from Texas who were great and really got the audience in the mood, Sting came back out to join them for their last song and then said they'd be back after a fifteen minute break.

True to his word, Sting plus band, (including a few of The Last Bandoleros and Joe Sumner on backing vocals), reappeared and went straight into 'Synchronicity II', followed by 'Spirits In The Material World' and 'Englishman In New York' which as expected all sounded superb, as the sound at the Apollo seems to have been improved greatly in the last couple of years.

We were then treated to a couple more off the new album, opener 'Can't Stop Thinking About You' and 'One Fine Day', (dedicated to Trump's stance on the EPA).

This then led to hit after hit, (both solo and by The Police), interspersed with tracks from the new album.

The full setlist was as follows:

-Before Support Acts-

Heading South on the Great North Road (with Joe Sumner)

-Main Set-

Synchronicity II
Spirits In The Material World
Englishman in New York
I Can't Stop Thinking About You
One Fine Day
She's Too Good For Me
I Hung My Head
Fields Of Gold
Down, Down, Down
Petrol Head
Shape Of My Heart
Pretty Young Soldier
Message In A Bottle
Ashes To Ashes (Sung by Joe Sumner)
Walking On The Moon
So Lonely
Desert Rose
Roxanne/Ain't No Sunshine


Next To You
Every Breath You Take

His band currently comprises Dominic Miller on guitar, his long time collaborator, Miller's son on guitar also and Josh Freese on drums, and they were faultless all night.

After two hours of performing the sold out crowd was eating from Sting's hand and he showed that he's still got the chops to perform a proper no frills rock show with a back catalogue of classics which he still performs with passion.

A true legend.

The Magpie Salute

On Wednesday we were back West London way at Under The Bridge, a club/live music venue at Chelsea's ground in Fulham to see The Magpie Salute, a new band comprising previous members of the Black Crows, Rich Robinson and Marc Ford, along with various other musicians they've been associated with on other projects, Sven Pipein on bass, (another sometime Crowes member), Rich Robinson band members Matt Slocum on keyboards, Joe Magistro on drums, Adrien Reju and Katrine Ottosen on vocals, plus John Hogg on the majority of lead vocals, Charity White another vocalist and finally Nico Bereciartua on guitar.

Under The Bridge is a small, great sounding venue, with only a five hundred capacity which made the gig all the more special, having originally announced this one night, which sold out instantly, they added the next three nights which all but sold out too, not bad for a band which hasn't even released an album yet and whose popularity is based entirely on word of mouth and numerous YouTube videos.

They perform basically covers, including quite a few The Black Crowes songs, which Hogg vocally handles extremely well. However the band has a well rounded warm sound, and it was a real treat to see a ten piece band in such an intimate setting, with full three piece backing vocals and three guitarists alone meaning they sounded second to none, especially as they were so in tune with each other and the performances were super tight.

Apart from the Crowes tunes they played which were superb, a couple of covers of note were the fantastic 'Rollin' Over' by The Small Faces and 'Your Time Is Gonna Come' by Led Zeppelin, which were great to hear, especially when performed so well, (particularly 'Rollin' Over', a favourite by The Small Faces).

The full setlist was, (including original performers of the songs):

Sting Me
(The Black Crowes)
My Morning Song
(The Black Crowes)
Sometimes Salvation
(The Black Crowes)
Stand Up
Shalimar Dreams
(Marc Ford & The Neptune Blues Club)
Only You Know And I Know
(Dave Mason)
Rollin' Over
(The Small Faces)
Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye
(The Black Crowes)
(The Black Crowes)
I Remember
(Rich Robinson)
A Change Of Mind
(Marc Ford)
Yesterday I Saw You
(Rich Robinson)
How Long
(Pat Kelly)
Your Time Is Gonna Come
(Led Zeppelin)
What Is Home
(The Black Crowes)
One Mirror Too Many
(The Black Crowes)
Under A Mountain
(The Black Crowes)
(Only) Halfway To Everywhere
(The Black Crowes)
Thorn's Progress Jam
(The Black Crowes)
Thorn In My Pride

(The Black Crowes)
Jealous Again
(The Black Crowes)

After an epic version of '(Only) Halfway To Everywhere', Robinson said that this was the point when they would normally leave then come back for an encore, but they were going to dispense with the charade of leaving and just play on.

They then started an extended evolving jam which became 'Thorn In My Pride' which was brought the house down, and ended on a high with 'Jealous Again' which had the crowd really pumped.

They played for a full two and a half hours and didn't let up for the whole set, and showed why they've garnered the reputation they have as they were impeccable throughout.

Hopefully they'll be back over here once the album hits, however it'll most likely be in a larger venue, which means we'll cherish this experience that little bit more.


The Radical Eye - Modernist Photography From The Sir Elton John Collection

On Easter Sunday we we're early for our film at the BFI Southbank so decided to pop into the Tate Modern, (membership here is invaluable), so Mrs C could catch this exhibition before it closes, and Mr C was keen to revisit it too, (his initial review can be found here).

Therefore we won't go into everything again, although on second visit the exhibition still proved to be an engaging visit, and the chance to see so many pieces by both well known and under-exposed, (nice pun huh?), artists is always a worthwhile time.

The marvellous new Switch House at Tate Modern...

A glimpse of the exhibition poster, plus you can see a little of Fujiko Nakaya's 'London Fog #03779' peeking over the wall...

On this re-evaluation the works focusing on the facial aspect, along with the various distortion methods really stood out, along with the section which focused on objects and everyday items, including a favourite of Elton's, the 'White Door'.

The area which centred on snapshots of life, featuring farmers in America from the 30s and especially Dorothea Lange's 'Migrant Mother' from 1936.

As always the Man Ray pieces are truly captivating in their composition and the photographic methods used to take them, develop them and print them, which just reinforces why Ray is such a giant of the genre.

It closes on May the 21st so get your skates on as it's really worth catching.


We then strolled back down the South Bank to the BFI for an afternoon screening of Alfred Hitchock's 'Suspicion', his 1941 thriller starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine.

This was showing in the smallest screen here, (if you don't include the Studio room), NFT3 in a 35mm print from the National Archives so that was a treat in itself.

This was a picture Hitchcock made for RKO Pictures, and was made around his transition period from the UK to America, following his thrilling little-seen espionage thriller, (and propaganda piece of sorts), 'Foreign Correspondent' from 1940.

The story was taken from a British novel called 'Before The Fact' by Anthony Berkely Cox, (under the pen name Francis Iles), however was altered in various ways, most notably the ending.

The plot concerns a single woman, Lina played by Joan Fontaine, who is from a wealthy society family who meets local playboy John Aysgarth, (Cary Grant), and despite her parent's wishes marries him, at which point things take a turn for the more sinister as his carefree, workshop lifestyle catches up with him and his sources of money and method of obtaining things are shrouded in mystery.

As Lina discovers more  and more details of what her new husband is caught up in, she begins to view his every action with suspicion, always unclear on whether he has finally turned over a new leaf or is still tied to his shady past.

As usual in a Hitchcock film there's some humour amongst the darkness and several set pieces stand out including the famous shot of Grant bringing Lina a glass of milk, which showed how Hitchcock was able to not only frame a shot but also to highlight such specific things as what might be considered an everyday item, but give it a ambiguous meaning.

Within Hitchcock's vast body of work, this is probably mid-level Hitchcock at work, apparently hampered by studio interference at the time, although he would have only just been finding his feet in Hollywood.

The abrupt change from a romantic comedy/drama feel of the first half an hour, to psychological thriller can be a bit jarring and the performances are definitely a product of their time, although that's only a problem if you're not willing to give yourself over to the storytelling on display, and Fontaine won an Oscar for her performance here so there's a lot to enjoy.

The ambiguity continues with Hitchcock's revamped ending, but the ride on the whole is a worthwhile and tense one.

These screenings are always worth catching when they pop up, which can be quite often at the BFI and it's always a thrill to see a Hitchcock on the big screen, however in the meantime there's a great region-free Blu-ray available from America which should satisfy. If Hitchcock's your thing, (and quite frankly why wouldn't it be?), check it out.

Selected Works From The Murderme Collection

We decided to make the most of the extended Easter weekend by heading out on the Monday to catch a couple of exhibitions which were ending soon, as we'd not had a chance to get to them sooner.

So we took a short stroll down Millbank and across the river to Damien Hirst's Newport Street Gallery, where two of the gallery spaces had been given over to a small selection of works from Hirst's personal 'Murderme' collection, including many of his contemporaries.

The nice thing about these shows are that it affords the opportunity to view pieces which are not normally on show.

A few of the more interesting pieces were a couple of different Boo Saville pieces, 'Head Study' a painting of a human head painted in the style of a sculpture and 'Saturn' an abstract 'colour field' which also exuded an ethereal quality.

Other interesting pieces were 'Unititled (GOD)' by Michael Craig Martin a combination of his outline print efforts and his typography work, 'Blue Valentine' by Helen Beard which depicted an explicit sexual image in simplistic colours and shapes, quite reminiscent of Gary Hume's work and Rachel Whiteread's 'Untitled (Pair)', painted bronze casts of a replica mortuary slab and an accompanying cast which was convex shaped to fit snugly within the concave curvature of the replica slab which would house a body.

Hirst himself was also represented by one of his many medicine cabinets 'Music', which always interests Mrs C greatly as she reminisces over the various medicines contained within.

'Music' by Damien Hirst...

Other artists included Jeff Koons, Julian Opie, Michael Landy, Tracey Emin and Angus Fairhurst.

This was the last day of this show, however the gallery will be back open from the 21st of April with the next full show there by Ashley Bickerton, which I'm sure we'll get to in the very near future, as the gallery itself is a pleasure to visit, let alone the art within.

David Hockney

After a short walk back to Tate Britain and a quick spot of lunch, we were ready for some more art, this time by giant of British art David Hockney, the latest blockbuster exhibition here.

After having enjoyed the two most recent high profile exhibitions by Hockney in recent years, both at the Royal Academy with 'A Bigger Picture' and '82 Portraits And 1 Still-Life', it was nice to finally have an opportunity to see a more comprehensive retrospective of Hockney's multi-faceted talents from his sixty years of creating art brought together in a mostly chronological way.

The opening room of the exhibition contains a few pieces spanning a broad period of his career, which gave a flavour of the breadth of skill and variety of styles to come, whilst also highlighting a couple of common themes within Hockney's oeuvre, such as his playful sense of scale, perspective and depth within painting, (obviously greatly inspired by Picasso, a subject touched upon in a previous exhibition here 'Picasso & Modern British Art', an enlightening show from 2012), portraiture, abstract scenes, and his many approaches to painting transparent fields such as glass or water.

The exhibition then moves on to demonstrate his versatility, something which Hockney was himself well aware of and keen to exhibit, like his hero Picasso, even incorporating elements which seemed reminiscent of Francis Bacon, more of which can be seen in his more abstract portrait work.

His move to Los Angeles was ultimately the period for which he became most well known, and where he discovered a lot about himself artistically and personally, exploring his sexuality privately and within his work, and was a very creatively fertile period during which he produced possibly his most famous work 'A Bigger Splash', a work evocative of the blue skies and swimming pools associated with the lifestyle there, and also allowed him explore his satirical takes on abstract art of the time in both his simplistic renderings of colour and shape, but melding them with very detailed almost photo realistic depictions of people, seen in work such as 'Peter Getting Out Of Nick's Pool'.

This realism was developed further with his portraits becoming more ambitious and naturalistic, with some of his large scale paintings which he would plan out with photos, but would have the subjects sit in person to paint. A couple of his most accomplished to my eyes are 'Mr And Mrs Clark And Percy' and 'My Parents' which really pop with their subtle but beautiful renderings of friends and family in everyday poses and settings.

Another truly exceptional method of creating which Hockney chose to explore and innovate within was photography, initially using the small scale square Polaroid type cameras then moving onto 35mm film which was borderless, he created collages of scenes by taking pictures of all angles of a scenes and overlapping and stitching them together in a cruder more low-fi version of panoramic photos on smart phones, but creating a more natural abstract, slightly more unreal version of what he saw with his own eyes, and explored themes via photography which he has also explored through other mediums such as painting and drawing. He developed this further using high definition video cameras later in his career, used to great effect in 'The Four Seasons' which is shown here in a room of it's own.

Hockney's return to Yorkshire in the early 2000s, and the subsequent large scale paintings he produced are represented here, but only marginally compared to the stunning Royal Academy show which was truly a feast for the eyes.

Also his innovative use of technology, most notably iPads to create drawings is also touched upon, however the true power of the show is in seeing such a diverse range of work, all very accomplished, yet by one artist. Hockney may be inspired by Picasso in this respect, but he ultimately proves himself to be his equal, at least from this view...

The show closes on the 29th of May so get yourself along!

Cerith Wyn Evans : Tate Britain Commission 2017

Also while we were at Tate Britain we took in the current commission presented within the main halls by Welsh artist Cerith Wyn Evans.

We're going to a talk with the artist later in the year about the commission so will report back then, in the meantime here's a couple of pics...

The Glass Menagerie

Our Easter weekend drew to a close with a visit to the Duke of York's Theatre in Covent Garden to catch Tennessee Williams' 'The Glass Menagerie' before it closes this month.

We managed to snag a box for this performance quite cheaply as the seats are sold restricted view, however the chairs in the box are movable so although the very extreme right hand side was obscured it didn't affect our enjoyment of the show at all.

With a cast of just four, the performances are where it really counts, and this was not a disappointment.

The cast includes Michael Esper as Tom, (who we last saw as Valentine in 'Lazarus'), Kate O'Flynn as his sister Laura, Cherry Jones as their domineering mother Amanda and Brian J Smith as the gentleman caller.

The story concerns Tom, a warehouseman who works to keep his mother a sister since their father/husband abandoned them years before, however he is desperate to get out and see the world, something which his overbearing mother is not accepting of, but agrees if Tom can get his very shy and slightly crippled sister Laura married off.

Being a Tennessee Williams play as expected there is plenty of drama and explorations of the darker side of striving for the 'American Dream'.

The play is based on many aspects of Williams' life which only adds to the intense feel of the piece as it's clearly written from experience and not an imagined sense of how the characters lives play out.

Partly narrated by Esper's Tom as well as featuring him as a character, the second half sees the introduction of 'the gentleman caller' into the family's microcosm, a visit which affects all concerned very deeply and irreversibly.

It's difficult to say much more without spoiling the plot, however the two and a half hour running time with interval flew by and the performances were impeccable. Well worth seeing for some proper weighty drama. It's on until the 29th of April.

Well that's it for a few weeks, but normal service will resume once we're back from honeymoon... So until then, get inspired...

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