Critics' choice



Perhaps the most reluctant poster boy of the early 1990s, Dando has been to hell and back in his personal life, as drugs took their toll on The Lemonheads’ front man. But he’s cleaned up his act and his first solo studio album, Baby I’m Bored, is the gem his fans always hoped he’d return with.

After developing their signature blend of pop, punk and country-rock in the late 1980s, the band struck it big with It’s a Shame About Ray in 1992 and Dando’s boyish good looks and warm, sexy voice saw the Lemonheads adorn a variety of magazine covers. The buzz surrounding him ensured 1993’s Come on Feel the Lemonheads was also a success.

As the band hit its peak, Dando hit a downward spiral, with hard drugs engulfing the music. By 1996 he had sorted himself out sufficiently to make the album Car Button Cloth, although the songs ‘Break Me’ and ‘Losing Your Mind’ revealed a man still at odds with the world and himself. The following year he announced the Lemonheads’ final gig.

Seven years since the band’s last album, Baby I’m Bored sees Dando revisit his Gram Parsons fixation, stepping out from behind the band name that has hidden him for so long. The result is a laid-back, simple and beautiful album, containing reflections on life, love and drugs set in soulful, country-tinged guitar pop. Dando manages to portray his life honestly without a shred of regret or self-pity and his songs are more beguiling than ever.

QMU, Glasgow (0141-339 9784), Wednesday, 7pm



The last works of Brahms close the Scottish Chamber Orchestra season on a note of warmth and humanity. Renowned for its outstanding performances, the ensemble’s close relationship with Conductor Laureate Sir Charles Mackerras has resulted in many successful recordings, including a Grammy-nominated set of Bach’s symphonies. In Pavo Berglund it has another of the world’s finest Brahms experts, bringing a lifetime of insight and understanding to these great classics.

With a commitment to serving the Scottish community, the SCO is one of Scotland’s foremost cultural ambassadors and is internationally recognised for its innovative approach to music-making and programme planning, broadcasting regularly on radio and television.

The SCO is now much in demand in the studio too, with a discography exceeding 140 recordings.

The success of principal conductor Joseph Swensen’s dynamic relationship with the orchestra - now in its seventh year - continues to develop. This season he has directed two concerts in the Late Masterpieces series, including the last great works of Beethoven and Sibelius. For this concert he will be joined by Jian Wang (cello), Pavo Berglund and Antje Weithaas on violin for Brahms’ Tragic Overture, Double Concerto and Symphony No 4. Stuart Campbell, lecturer in music at the University of Glasgow, will discuss the music of Brahms at a pre-concert talk.

Usher Hall, Edinburgh (0131-228 1155), Thursday, 7.45pm, talk begins 6.45pm



He may have spent much of his musical life living in the shadow of Gram Parson’s legacy, but Chris Hillman’s contribution to music has been just as important in the development of California country-rock, virtually defining the genre through his early work with The Byrds. After playing in a variety of groups, it was a jangly cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ that saw the band introduce audiences to folk-rock, with hugely influential hits such as ‘Turn Turn Turn’, ‘Eight Miles High’ and ‘So You Want to be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star’ defining the era of the mid-1960s.

Later joining Parsons as a vocalist and guitarist in the Flying Burrito Brothers, along with Chris Etheridge, Pete Kleinow and Jon Corneal, Hillman carried on in the country-rock vein and albums such as Gilded Palace of Sin and 1970’s Burrito Deluxe saw the band gain widespread respect and success.

A brief reunion with The Byrds has since followed, as have various collaborations with the great and good of country-rock, but his most successful project post-Byrds came in the form of the Desert Rose Band, proving that in the late 80s and early 90s, Hillman still had what it took to gain a top 10 hit.

He is joined on this tour by Herb Pederson, whose crystal clear tenor has graced the works of artists such as Vince Gill and Linda Ronstadt, not to mention his own experience in the Desert Rose Band.

The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen (01224-642234), Thursday, 8pm



In this exciting dance version of Shakespeare’s classic, choreographer Kim Brandstrup focuses on a young Hamlet confronted with a changed and alien adult world.

As an outsider coming to terms with the cruel realities of treachery, betrayal and murder, Hamlet becomes a spectator of his own play, a play into which he cannot enter, in which he cannot act. In a series of rapidly changing scenes and actions, the piece charts Hamlet’s journey from paralysed grief through madness and tormented indecision to his manic pursuit of revenge.

Dividing the stage space in two - a stage within a stage - Hamlet switches between being outside the action, watching and reluctantly being sucked into it. Like the melancholic who views the world as a series of distant, empty rituals, Hamlet observes a world that is alien, dangerous and incomprehensible: a bad play he is incapable of entering into.

Inspired by a breadth of sources - from mythology and literature to contemporary cinema - Kim Brandstrup has been exploring new ways of telling stories through dance for the past decade.

He has created a unique style of theatre, fusing contemporary dance, ballet and drama to critical acclaim.

Hamlet is performed by a company of 11 dancers - including Joanne Fong, left - from the worlds of contemporary dance and ballet.

Eden Court Theatre, Inverness (01463-234234), Thursday, 8pm; MacRobert Theatre, Stirling (01786-466666), Saturday, 8pm



There is an understandable, but misguided, conclusion that this Vanishing Point production is a ‘children’s show’. Yet, as the company’s artistic director Matthew Lenton points out, there is no cultural Chinese Wall between theatre for the young and stage productions for adults: "As adults we lose our sense of play, but I think theatre is about recapturing our sense of play. I think the best theatre for adults has an almost childlike sense of wonder about it."

Armed with this philosophy, Lenton and his colleagues have created an improvised piece, based upon Trevor Norton’s book of the same name. It aims to engage children and adults equally in its tale of the obsessions of a deep-sea diver. Set in and around an island where people dive for sponges, it broaches humanity’s struggle to tame nature with technology and the risks we take in pursuit of our ultimate goals.

"It’s a story of adventure, almost in the spirit of Indiana Jones," the director suggests. "There’s a central protagonist who goes on this adventure. There’s a series of events which confront him and impede him." For some, Lenton’s belief in a theatre which is attractive to people from the age of eight and upwards will come as something of a surprise. After all, past Vanishing Point productions, such as their fine piece A Brief History of Time, may have had a certain sense of play, but they have rarely seemed to demand a young audience.

However, Lenton doesn’t want his company to be typecast. Following its wordless piece, Invisible Man, there was a danger that they would become categorised as a physical theatre company. Yet their next project will be a new play written for them by Iain Heggie.

Rather than welcoming the breadth of the company’s theatrical interests, however, there are those who consider the Heggie project to be a return to a more traditional form. "When we initially put in our application for the Heggie show, the Scottish Arts Council gave us the money and said, ‘We think this is a good direction the company’s going in, because it’s text based,’" the director remembers, with barely disguised irritation.

Lenton argues that we in Scotland need to become more European in our approach to storytelling. "We work on the basis of what is the best way to tell a story," he insists, "which sometimes is visual and sometimes uses words. In this show it has tended to be a combination of both."

Tramway, Glasgow (0845-330 3501), Wednesday to Saturday, 8pm, then touring until June 1; Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh in August. For more information visit


David Greig’s gripping, fast-moving drama shows how war can destroy an innocence, a way of seeing and a way of being young forever. In 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, two young Cambridge ornithologists arrive on a remote, uninhabited Scottish island, sent by the government to survey the island’s birds. For Robert, it is the fulfilment of his dream to find the elusive Leach’s Petrel - a bird that only makes landfall to breed on outlying islands. For John, it is the chance to learn from his talented mentor.

With them on the island are Kirk, the authoritarian leaseholder, and his niece Ellen, a young woman who dreams of the stars of silent comedy. Left alone on a scrap of land, surrounded by the vast Atlantic, the boys, Kirk and Ellen observe each other, are drawn together and, ultimately, take a journey which pushes at the limits of what it is to be human, encompassing violence, tenderness, cruelty and intense desire.

Outlying Islands premiered at the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe to great acclaim, winning a Fringe First award among others. Fresh from the World Stage Festival, Toronto, it is set to take off round the world on tour. Catch it while you still have the chance.

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh (0131-228 1404), until Saturday, 8pm



A special collaboration between poet and artist has resulted in a powerful visual statement, exploring the issues of nationalism, identity, memory and myth. Tom Leonard is best known for poetry written in the urban speak of the Glasgow area, a mode which was revolutionary and innovative when his first collection Six Glasgow Poems was published in 1969. His work has exposed condescension in the literary establishment towards the vernacular of working-class people, in both the spoken and the written word.

In his introduction to Radical Renfrew: Poetry from the French Revolution to the First World War (1990), he slams language snobbery and the literary values that oppress those who don’t use the Queen’s English or ‘good’ Scots. Images by award-winning artist Calum Colvin stand side by side with Leonard’s poems. This treatment of words and graphics uses colour, scale and positioning to fully express the meaning behind the words.

Born in Glasgow, one of Colvin’s main interests is exploring the idea of Scottish national identity. A practitioner of both sculpture and photography, he brings these disciplines together in his unique style of ‘constructed photography’, resulting in exciting, humorous and intriguing visuals. Having taken inspiration from Colvin’s Ossian images, Leonard’s poems are themselves inspirational. Combined, the works are a visual experience well worth witnessing.

Aberdeen Art Gallery (01224-639 539), Saturday until June 21



In a whirlwind of wild emotion and intense passion, Taraf De Haidouks has gone from being the local gypsy band in a remote Romanian village to performing with the world’s most prestigious musicians. Since being discovered by a couple of Belgians travelling through Clejani, the ‘Band of Brigades’ have appeared in several films, modelled Yohji Yamamoto’s collection at the Paris fashion shows and received a prestigious BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music.

A brilliant crew of violinists and singers, flute and accordion players, Taraf can break your heart one moment and have you jumping around with joy the next. Their singing is both hard and sweet, their rhythms catch the ear off balance whilst they maintain a terrific momentum, and their harmonic shifts can make your brain reel. The age range in the group is from 20 to 80, but like their music they seem ageless.

When choosing their name they wanted to pay a tribute to the Haidouks - legendary bandits like Robin Hood. Between their trips to the West, the musicians always return to their home town and to their traditional style of life. They live for music and make a point of being present at all the events of the social life of their town. They have been one of the few gypsy ensembles to represent their culture’s folk music on the world stage, determined to hold on to their roots.

Since launching their debut album, Musique des Tsiganes de Roumanie, in 1991, the group has been a hit worldwide. The medieval ballads, the Turkish style of the Balkan dances and the characteristic vocal flexion - reminiscent of Indian roots - introduced the rich world of the gypsy music of Romania to the West and we simply can’t get enough of it.

The follow-up album, Honourable Brigands, Magic Horses and Evil Eye, was voted by German critics the Best World Music Album in 1995 and inspired French director Guy Demoy to produce a documentary on Taraf. Dumbala Dumba showed a more intimate and poetic side to the group in 1997 as a series of collaborators were invited to join Taraf on their third album.

The group has since released a compilation of all three albums which provides the perfect introduction to the passion of gypsy music. They are the consummate show band, highly skilled musicians with theatrical flair, and their live shows are sure to be an explosive and unforgettable experience.

Usher Hall, Edinburgh (0131-228 1155), Wednesday, 7pm; The Arches, Glasgow (0901-022 0200), Thursday, 8pm

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