Handel & Hendrix in London, Brook Street, London W1

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London has a number of small and quirky museums. This one dedicated to life and works of George Frederic Handel and Jimi Hendrix is certainly an unexpected combination. Handel lived at 25 Brook Street for 36 years in the 18th Century and Hendrix lived at number 23 for short time in the 1960s.

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Bach’s house is decorated in the slightly austere Georgian style that was fashionable when he lived there. It does contain some beautiful musical instruments, including a wonderful harpsichord and a chamber organ. The bedroom has a four poster bed and there are some good paintings and a bust of Handel too. There are recitals held in the music room at least once a week and the staff are knowledgeable and helpful.

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The Hendrix flat is laid out somewhat differently. The bedroom/living room is decorated as it would have been when Hendrix and his girlfriend lived here, this is borne out by the many photos of the room published during this time. The rest of the apartment is done in a more traditional museum style, with guitars and jackets in glass cases and commemorative posters on the walls.  The bedroom is interesting, the fact that it is so classically psychedelic Carnaby Street 1960s in style probably reflects the huge effect that he had on the fashion of the time.

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Unlike many museums in London, this one is not free unless you have a National Art Pass. It is small but it does contain a number of curious items. It is striking to compare what the height of fashion was in the centre of London two hundred years apart – and there is something apt in the fact that it doesn’t open until 11am on any day. Half an hour or forty minutes will adequately see you round this exhibition, but if you are a fan of either rock or baroque, I think there will be something here to please you.

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Bat Out of Hell – The Musical, Dominion Theatre, London 2018

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Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical is a full-on, no holds barred show. It is not afraid to take risks, it is prepared to appear ridiculous and one has to admire that bravery. Sometimes these bets pay off and there are moments of stupendous, over-the-top brilliance. Most of these come in the songs that are on the Bat out of Hell album, when the spectacle and choreography seem to step up a gear. The original LP was about forty minutes long and this show runs a little under three hours including the interval.

All the tracks from 1977 are done well, and some of Jim Steinman’s other early songs fit in well. Surprisingly “It’s all coming back to me now” made famous by Celine Dion is a real highlight. However some of the other songs are saccharine, subpar Disney, teenage angst repackaged for the late middle aged.

The storyline is poor, difficult to follow and uninventive. The characters are all two dimensional, composite caricatures. Despite this, some of the performances are outstanding. Andrew Polec has the perfect rock bearing as Strat. Christina Bennington, who plays Raven, has a lovely voice and can act well, a more traditional musical might suit her talents better, I’d love to see her sing Sondheim.  Rob Fowler is outstanding as Falco; a camp, overblown baddie – who can really sing. Perhaps it’s true that the devil has all the best tunes. Danielle Steers steals the show as Zahara, she has an amazing rock voice and rock attitude, she commands the stage whenever she sings.

The set is excellent, the huge stage at the Dominion allowing it to be up to four different areas, all at the same time. The special effects are among the best I have ever seen in a stage musical, although I suspect that those who sit in the front few rows miss parts of the show because of the amount of dry ice rolling off the front of the stage. The choreography is mostly wonderful, especially in the big set pieces and the songs that end each half ensure that you leave the auditorium on a high.

The audience adored it. The cheering began when the first backing singer arrived on stage, even before the start of the show and there was an instant standing ovation at the end. I can understand why it is such a hit wherever it goes, it is a big overblown, melodramatic rock opera and it does that wonderfully well. I think it could have been even better if it cut the emotionally manipulative ballads and ran maybe an hour shorter.

 

 

Sing Street (dir. John Carney) 2016

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This film is written and directed by John Carney. He has a huge talent for writing likeable and recognisable characters. All of his films have some fantastic original songs in them  and this one mixes together a great 1980s soundtrack with some excellent original material.

The story is lovely, a boy forming a post-punk rock band to impress a girl who is out of his league, and to impress his stoner older brother, who he idolises. The older brother is played by Jack Reynor, who is outstanding and all but steals the show.

My one difficulty with the film was suspending my disbelief, the band became too good at playing their instruments too quickly and the happy ending was almost sad, because, as a walk off into the sunset, it was so doomed to end in disaster. This mattered because I liked everyone involved so much that I at least wanted them to have some realistic chance of success.

Having said that, this film is very enjoyable and it is rare that a writer can make you like almost everyone in a film, even the school bully.

Rising Stars at 229 The Venue, London

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Rising Stars is a showcase for up and coming music artists. The events are organised by Time Out and take place in famous venues around London.

On May 17th at 229 The Venue, Great Portland Street, the bands I saw were: Emily Capell, David Stewart, Saint Agnes and Jackaman.

Emily Capell is a singer/songwriter with a good voice, witty songs and a good stage presence. Her songs are poppy and catchy and have a nice sing-along feel to them.

David Stewart has a really strong voice, writes clever (sometimes harsh) lyrics and has great delivery. He exudes confidence and appears very relaxed on stage.

Saint Agnes are a prog rock, riff heavy band. Their songs were fantastic, great vocals, good harmonies. Their guitar riffs were excellent. They were visually interesting and really got the crowd moving. They got the best reaction of the night and I will definitely go to see them again.

Jackaman are an Indie rock outfit fronted by Lynne Jackaman who used to front St. Jude. They are on the rockier side of Indie and their songs and vocals are strong. Very enjoyable.

Rising Stars nights happen around London about 6 or 7 times a year. They are not expensive to get into and from what I have seen the music is always high quality. It is a great way of getting to see new live bands and a very good value night out.

The photo is of the band Saint Agnes

Recommended.