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Friday Night is Music Night (Queen Elizabeth Hall)

Off to the Southbank Centre last night for a live broadcast on Radio 2 of the world’s longest-running orchesteral radio programme Friday Night is Music Night, introduced by Ken Bruce, with special guests Gary Wilmot, Sarah Fox, and cornet player Thomas Nielsen (winner of the Radio 2 Young Brass Soloist competition).

With a tried and tested mix of classical, opera, and musicals, this formula continues to pull in the listeners, and I enjoy seeing the show performed now and then – we last saw it in 2015.

Musical numbers performed included You’ve Got Trouble from The Music Man, Will You Remember from Maytime, Soliloquy from Carousel, Hushabye Mountain from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and It’s a Jolly Holiday from Mary Poppins.

stage of Queen Elizabeth Hall

Orchestral interludes from West Side Story, and the work of Rimsky-Korsakov, and an operatic aria from Dvorak’s Rusalka, plus cornet versions of Someone To Watch Over Me and Napoli, made this a rather special concert, with a piece for voice and solo piano (The Way You Look Tonight) being especially effective.

One or two of Bruce’s informative snippets might have been inaccurate (Peggy Wood was indeed the Mother Abbess in the film of The Sound of Music, but Margery MacKay sang for her in the role), and Wilmot might have missed a few of the lyrics of the Soliloquy, but that’s what makes live shows real.

If you want to hear this concert for yourself, you can find it on the BBCiPlayer.


Suzanne Vega (Meltdown, Queen Elizabeth Hall)

A slice of New York came to the Southbank Centre last weekend as the Meltdown Festival drew to a close; this year, Robert Smith from The Cure has curated an interesting mix of musicians, and it was good to share the first date of Vega’s international tour – taking in Dubai, Australia, New Zealand, and back to the UK – with an appreciative audience at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Suzanne-Vega-at-Meltdown-Festival-Southbank-Centre-Virginie-Viche-7-1024x620
Image credit: Virginie Viche, The Upcoming

Vega made her first impact on folk music in 1985, with her first self-titled album, containing the single Marlene on the Wall, which she obligingly performed with the Dietrich hat firmly in place.  Now a woman in late middle age, Vega is immaculate, with a black trouser suit, glittery boots, and a lot of attitude, sparring with her guitarist, Gerry Leonard, who knows a lot about accompanying legends, having worked for years alongside the late David Bowie.  He’s also known for creating clever waves of sound which make the stage feel far more full than it is.

In a varied and interesting set, Vega shared both hits and pet songs with us, including her other big hit, Luka, her story song The Queen and the Soldier, the rockers Blood Makes Noise and I Never Wear White, the sweet ballads Small Blue Thing and Gypsy, and much more. She engages with her audience, too: many artists do not really talk, but she conspires, teases, and exudes a warmth I didn’t expect.

A very accomplished night was started by her support act, James Walsh of Starsailor, who impressed with Empire and If I Had The Words.  He made me think of Layne Staley at times with his vocals, and of Uriah Heep with the sheer sweep of his melodies.  Neither a bad thing.

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Friday Night is Music Night (Queen Elizabeth Hall)

A finely nostalgic night about The Light Programme, titled ‘On the Wireless and Off the Box’, on stage at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and live on Radio 2, with the ghosts of Hancock and Semprini, Jimmy Edwards, Flanders and Swann, Gus Elen, Max Miller, and others jostling for space with songs from My Fair Lady (‘Show Me’) and Carousel (‘If I Loved You’), as well as Noel Coward’s sparkling Nina.

Bringing these to life for us, under the watchful eye of Master of Ceremonies Ken Bruce and conductor Gavin Sutherland, were the BBC Concert Orchestra, Kitty Whately, Simon Butterkiss, Roy Hudd, and Tim FitzHigham/Duncan Walsh.  It’s quite a feat the move from the fun of ‘In Party Mood’ to the pomp of ‘Orb and Sceptre’, to the music hall high jinks of ‘It’s A Great Big Shame’ and ‘Lucky Jim’ to the crowd-pleasing singalong of ‘Mud, Glorious Mud’ and the patter song ‘My Name is John Wellington Wells’ (from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sorcerer).  The most touching thing was to see Roy Hudd, a man who appears more elderly when he isn’t in full flight, deliver ‘While London’s Fast Asleep’, by Harry Dacre, which could indeed “have been written yesterday”.

Funny, too, to see an audience delight in banter between Tony Hancock and Kenneth Williams, relayed over the years, and snicker at Dick Barton.


Fascinating Aida (Queen Elizabeth Hall)

The UK’s funniest and filthiest comedy cabaret act are back with a tw0-week residence at London’s Southbank with their new show, ‘Charm Offensive’.

If you’ve seen these three ladies (Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and Liza Pulman) before, then you’ll know what to expect.  If not, then look up their YouTube sensation, ‘Cheap Flights’.  There are songs about coping with grown-up children (‘Boomerang Kids’), shared hobbies (‘Dogging’), the poignancy of the passing of time (‘Look Mummy, No Hands’), the story of Adele’s gender reassignment (‘Prisoner of Gender’), old classics (‘Taboo’), and in place of last tour’s go at the HSE, this time OFSTED are in the firing line.

With fast-firing wordplay mixed with beautiful harmonies, these ladies look almost angelic, even when sharing off-colour thoughts about Michael Douglas.  And their Christmas song is utter fun.

Don’t miss.


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