Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. On a glorious, opening day of sunshine for Perth’s staging of the BBC’s inaugral Biggest Weekend, headliner Nigel Kennedy wowed the crowds with a sumptuous foray into jazz and Gershwin, even taking to the piano for a puckishly swinging interpretation of They Can’t Take That Away From Me. Backed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, he delivered a zesty Porgy and Bess medley, with The Man I Love whirring through a violin/cello duet and a careering Lady Be Good that had many up and dancing.
The Biggest Weekend – Friday Night, Scone Palace, Perth ****
If Kennedy’s earlier, dramatic ebb and flow through Bach with the young Palestinian player Mustafa Saad may have hinted at a political stance, it was as nothing compared to the Trump-excoriating rendition of I Burn But Am Not Consumed from BBC folk singer of the year, Karine Polwart, and her trio.
Reiterating man’s insignificance against time and tide, it was followed by the powerful but unsettling tale of 11-year-old Susan Maxwell’s murder, Half a Mile, the lush gorgeousness of the orchestral accompaniment an affecting elegy for the tragic subject matter.
A little late to the stage, as is a soprano’s prerogative at a loose, outdoor event, Danielle de Niese mirrored Kennedy in choosing a crowd-pleasing set, trilling through a pleasant but restrained I Feel Pretty and I Could Have Danced All Night, before unleashing a lustily seductive Habanera from Carmen.
By contrast, I found percussive maestro Evelyn Glennie’s marimba playing of the opening movement of Michael Daugherty’s Dream Machine technically impressive, but it washed over me somewhat. Similarly, I struggle to engage with the crossover jazz stylings of the rather too needy Jamie Cullum, greatly preferring Moishe’s Bagel on the second stage, where their eclectic blend of Balkan and North African traditions was wonderfully evocative.