Festival review: Sonica, Tramway, Glasgow

Sonica, Glasgow’s lovingly leftfield festival of audio-visual art and performance, celebrated its fifth edition with its most varied and ambitious programme to date, centred on its Tramway hub but also venturing into new and underused spaces.

Kathryn Joseph PIC: John Devlin

Music review: Kathryn Joseph, Glasgow City Halls

To her evident delight and surprise, Kathryn Joseph has become a left-of-centre fixture since winning the Scottish Album of the Year Award in 2015 with her debut album, Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled. But there was something different about her biggest hometown show to date – instead of eyeballing the audience side-on from her battered upright piano, she played a grand piano more fitting to the elegant opulence of the City Halls.

Ezra Koenig, frontman of of Vampire Weekend. Picture: Rich Polk/Getty Images

Music review: Vampire Weekend, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

“IT’S the first night of our tour, and this is a good place to start,” mused Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig with a hint of understatement, as the packed-out Edinburgh crowd jumped for ever-more-feverish joy before his band. Vampire Weekend have been away for six years – or at least, that’s been the gap between their 2013 third album Modern Vampires of the City and this year’s follow-up Father of the Bride – and their fans appear to have remained loyally by their side.

Pop's greatest socialist agitator was positively inspiring. Picture: Shutterstock

Music review: Billy Bragg, Saint Luke’s, Glasgow

Right now, we need Billy Bragg more than ever. He can’t single-handedly rescue the weary and dispossessed, but he can remind us that we’re neither beaten nor alone. During this defiant solo show – the first of three consecutive nights at this intimate converted church – he cherry-picked material from across his career.

Violinist Pekko Kuusisto has a huge musical personality

Music review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Pekka Kuusisto, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

That this was the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s first season concert featuring London-born, Edinburgh-educated, New York-based Anna Clyne as associate composer almost overshadowed the fact that it was the remarkable Finnish violinist/conductor Pekka Kuusisto’s second as featured artist. No concert featuring Kuusisto can fail to convey his huge musical personality, though, and with the SCO it was there in abundance. His opening Beethoven Creatures of Prometheus Overture was rugged and gutsy, directed with vigour from the violin, and he injected a similar vigour and vim into Mozart’s lightweight but charming K136 Divertimento. To close, his Haydn “Il distratto” Symphony was simply superb – brisk, biting, boldly characterised, and with its copious musical jokes (a sudden spate of tuning up, or violins seeming to forget why they were there) played deliciously straight, and as a result genuinely funny.

Pietari Inkinen

“It has to go off the scale” – Pietari Inkinen prepares to conduct Prague Symphony in Mahler 3 in Edinburgh

‘Of course it would have been easier to play Dvořák’s New World Symphony, which the orchestra can do with its eyes closed.” Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen is considering the many challenges of performing Mahler’s massive Third Symphony, which he directs with the Prague Symphony Orchestra at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on 10 November, stop four in the ensemble’s seven-concert tour of the UK.

Architecture Social Club founder Satyajit Das with Aether, which opened the Sonica festival PIC: John Devlin

Festival review: Sonica, various venues, Glasgow

Who’d have thought a piece of spinning string could be so unutterably beautiful? It was that, strung between floor and ceiling in Tramway’s cavernous main hall, that provided the focus for Italian artist Michela Pelusio’s mesmerising SpaceTime Helix (*****), one of the high points in the opening weekend of the Glasgow-wide Sonica festival of visual/sonic art. In her infinitessimal adjustments of light, colour, sound vibrations and velocity, Pelusio captured the string in weird curving patterns, or seemed to create semi-solid, kaleidoscopic towering objects, deformed by bits of rag she casually threw into its vortex. It seemed to embody all that Sonica is about: a harnessing of technology and the simple physics of sound and vision to beguiling artistic ends, at once playfully captivating and intellectually provocative.

Connor Fyfe

Under the Radar: Connor Fyfe

Having taught himself to play guitar from YouTube tutorials, 13-year-old singer songwriter Connor Fyfe is now a promising artist from Bellshill  in Glasgow. Over the past two years he’s achieved a great deal, playing The Barrowlands, King Tut’s and an impressive 20 festivals this year alone, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Party at The Palace, Youthbeatz and Butefest.

Conductor and violinist Joseph Swensen

Music review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Joseph Swensen, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

WHILE Edinburgh Uni students prowled South Clerk Street dressed as walking corpses and blood-smeared vampires, inside the Queen’s Hall, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra devoted its Halloween to Czech sunshine, warmth and positivity. This was one of the ensemble’s most unashamedly joyful, upbeat concerts, propelled along with eager energy by Joseph Swensen, who seemed in his element in the blithe good spirits of Suk’s opening Serenade for Strings, elegantly shaping its aching melodies and building quite a passionate head of steam in its slow movement. Brisk and buoyant, it was a delight from start to finish – unchallenging, perhaps, but delivered with humour, high spirits and touching sincerity.

Milos Karadaglic

Music review: Flanders Symphony Orchestra and Miloš Karadaglić, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

HEARTTHROB Montenegrin guitarist Miloš Karadaglić apologised to the Usher Hall audience for having to cancel his previous Edinburgh gig – back in 2016, at the same venue – because of a recurrent hand injury. But he was back on form, he assured us, and back in the capital to perform the same piece he’d been intending to play three years back: Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez.

Marina Diamandis has no big hits to offer, but her fans don't care.   Picture: Andy Von Pip/ZUMA Wire/Shutterstock

Music review: Marina, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

MARINA Diamandis’ solo show is a stadium spectacular on a budget, a collision of song, dance, visual effects and her own mature and very capable songwriting skills in concert hall form. This has the rather unusual effect of giving the star of the show a kind of down-to-earth modesty, even as she’s enacting a complex dance routine alongside her quartet of gender-fluid dancers against a video wall showing far-off landscapes.

Lisa Stansfield's strong voice hasn't deserted her on this 30th anniversary tour of her debut album. Picture: RMV/Shutterstock

Music review: Lisa Stansfield, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

LISA Stansfield’s current tour celebrates the 30th anniversary of her once ubiquitous debut album Affection. That, of course, gave birth to karaoke staple All Around The World, a deserved and appropriately globe-conquering hit (you could say it put her on the map, but I wouldn’t).

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