Music review: RSNO | Bunny Wailer | Burt Bacharach

Burt Bacharach performing. Picture: Getty

Burt Bacharach performing. Picture: Getty

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A SUDDEN break in the weather, a bracing wind under the ominous covering of thick grey clouds, made Wednesday’s outdoor concert by the RSNO in the Glasgow Green Live Zone a testing experience for all concerned.

RSNO: Classics on the Green

GLASGOW GREEN

***

From the players’ point of view it was clothes pegs to the ready to ensure the pages of the scores didn’t turn themselves. And the presence of scarves and fleeces suggested it was cold as well as windy up there on the exposed stage.

For the audience, it simply meant there were fewer around to support this free event, though as the 90-minute show progressed, the magnetism of the amplified music gradually increased the numbers from modest to respectable.

It wasn’t a performance you could easily judge on musical merit. The crude sound system turned the opening snare drum roll into a machine gun attack, and thereafter the wind, brass and percussion dominated. But in the context it was intended – a tuneful and prominent sideshow among all the competing activity round about, including bursts of Oasis from a neighbouring attraction – it was well received.

It was also a great opportunity for the RSNO’s new assistant conductor, Jean-Claude Picard, to find his legs in the job, breathing fiery energy into such classics as Strauss’ Thunder and Lightning Polka, Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, Ravel’s Bolero, Henry Wood’s Fantasy on British Sea Songs, and providing moody backing support to soloist Rachel Sermanni, a young folk singer with a beguiling songwriting talent.

KEN WALTON

Seen on 29.07.14

BURT BACHARACH

PLAYHOUSE, EDINBURGH

****

“THE very first time I came to Edinburgh was during the festival as Marlene Dietrich’s music director,” reminisced Burt Bacharach from the stage, and the gasps and cheers from the audience testified to just how long a career the 86-year-old before us had enjoyed. “That was a very long time ago,” he sighed, misty-eyed, as though he could hardly believe it himself.

Apparently, while signing autographs, Dietrich had pointed at a young Bacharach and said “you vant his autograph” (accent storyteller’s own). “Who’s he?” the luckless starhunter grunted in response.

Nobody could mistake Bacharach now, or the commanding repertoire of pop songs and movie scores which tumbled out over two hours at the Playhouse, among them many touchstones of the last five decades and more.

Amidst it all sat Bacharach, more aged and frail than he has seemed on recent visits, and with a singing voice which has been eroded to a gruff whisper, an instrument of strange poignancy when sparingly employed during The Look of Love, Alfie and A House is Not a Home.

Where Bacharach’s voice had worn gravitas, the trio of seated singers alongside him had an over-earnest modern soul style accommodating more notes than necessary. Yet the songwriting powerhouse in the comfortable shoes found the grace and emotional power of his finest work – take your pick from Walk On By, Close to You, Arthur’s Theme, The World is a Circle and many more – best expressed by the huge orchestra arranged in a horseshoe around him, an arrangement which is the least his music deserves.

DAVID POLLOCK

Seen on 30.07.14

Bunny Wailer

ABC, GLASGOW

****

NEVILLE Livingston, better known to the world as Bunny Wailer, knows how to make an entrance. The diminutive 67-year-old cut quite a figure in his bright white threads and trailing Doctor Who scarf in Rastafarian colours. The lightshow gleamed red, gold and green for this legend of reggae, who grew up with Bob Marley and was one of the founding members of The Wailers alongside Peter Tosh.

As the only surviving member of the trio, Livingston takes his reggae ambassador role seriously, helming a continuous flow of strictly roots material. His core band handled the song-to-song tempo shifts seamlessly, while the instinctive brass section and backing singers provided the sunshine flourishes.

Inevitably, numerous Marley tracks made it into the setlist but rather than trot out a parade of Wailers hits, Livingston chose instead to emphasize his roots with Marley on the buoyant carefree swing of Trenchtown Rock and Trench Town, both of which celebrate the liberating power of music.

No Woman No Cry was a pertinent reminder of just how far that music took The Wailers from their native Trenchtown, while a version of Peter Tosh’s Legalize It celebrated their substance of choice. As the set approached the two-hour mark, the vintage ska bounce of Simmer Down livened up the swaying crowd.

True to his word, Bunny and the band played on until they were told to stop and exited without an encore, having never once interrupted their flow.

FIONA SHEPHERD
Seen on 29.07.14

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