MUSIC and art
PERTH FESTIVAL FINALE ****
PERTH CONCERT HALL
HOW often do you find the likes of violinist Tasmin Little, pianist Peter Donohoe, cellist Julian Lloyd Webber and soprano Lesley Garrett on the same concert billing, and with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to boot? Well, that was the line-up for the finale to the Perth Festival – a classical version of Sunday Night at the London Palladium.
And it certainly drew the crowds, who soaked up the gentle breeze that was Little's affectionate pairing of Beethoven's Romance No 2 in F and Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending (the piece every Classic FM listener apparently wants as their desert island favourite), delivered by the petite violinist with a mixture of uncharacteristic detachment and understatement.
Donohoe even managed to draw some amusement from Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, when he faltered for a second, trying to decide which way to cross his hands. In fact, it was a performance, like Little's, that seemed a tad uncomfortable, as if he had come back to this work after a long period away from it. But old pros like Donohoe don't shake easily; bravado brought it off.
Lloyd Webber's fresh-faced performance of Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme had complete composure from start to finish. He urged the music along with breathless ease, begging the same response for the RPO, but not always getting it. Sunday night's playing under Philip Ellis, which included a rather ordinary romp through Rossini's William Tell overture, was not this orchestra at its finest.
And then there was dear old Lesley, who introduced her own operatic selection with enough soft sentiment to charm the knitting pattern off an old auntie.
The songs were nothing spectacular, but were delivered like the consummate entertainer she is.
VODAFONE TBA ***
PRINCES STREET GARDENS, EDINBURGH
POP music isn't pop music in 2008 unless its broadcast on Channel 4 has been sanctioned by a nationally-recognised mobile phone network – at least, that's how it feels every time you scroll through the on-screen TV listings these days. This latest venture, though (sponsored by Vodafone and Sony Ericsson), at least offers something fresh in terms of format.
The groups appearing – Sugababes, the Hoosiers, The Feeling – were all culled from the ranks of the smoothly family-friendly, and the sight of geezerish C4 linksman Dave Berry (also the boyfriend of Sugababe Heidi Range) having his make-up spruced up at the side of the stage assured us we were on familiar ground. In fact, all of the guests were probably well-suited to a show that ran from midday until 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, their daytime radio-friendly hits not over-taxing a crowd in part still fragile from the night before.
Amid the general cheer, one or two truly timeless pop classics – Sugababes' Overload and Push the Button and The Feeling's cover of Video Killed the Radio Star – stood out.
The sight of the mini-skirted 'Babes strutting like it was Saturday night and the Hoosiers employing a Spider-Man costume and a tootling two-part horn section in skeleton suits might have confused a few, though. As could the fact that the show was recut and edited to be broadcast to the nation a matter of hours later. Neither live broadcast nor lengthily-trailed prerecord, it instead felt like some kind of big, postmodern practical joke when The Feeling's Dan Gillespie Sells graciously apologised for the rain which found itself tipping down by the end. The audience could, after all, have just set the video and kept their umbrellas dry.
PSYCHO BUILDINGS ***
THE art gallery and the funfair have converged. But as this exhibition of specially commissioned architectural pieces by eight artists shows, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Open until 25 August, Psycho Buildings is the world's most intelligent theme park, where each artwork is a "ride" of ideas. The German artist Michael Beutler has made a network of corridors of coloured paper, a three-dimensional Kandinksy painting from which it is tricky to exit. Rachel Whiteread, the British artist famous for her casting, contributes her collection of old doll's houses. Laid out in darkness, illuminated from the inside, they look like a suburb of a model village. There's even an outdoor area: a collective of four Austrian artists, Gelitin, have built a pool on the Hayward's balcony on which visitors can row small boats.
It's entertaining and occasionally superficial, but also a powerful survey of an important new area of artistic activity. Since the 1990s, artists have been expanding installation art into all-encompassing rooms and full-scale buildings. Two directions have emerged. One group of artists make spaces like film sets, so upstairs, there are a couple of rooms with huge holes blasted in chipboard walls, which look like the aftermath of a shotgun massacre, by highly regarded British artist Mike Nelson.
A second group create structures which seek to reinvent the rules of architecture. The ethereal "building" by gifted Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto is inspired by the human body – a "skin" of nylon stocking material is stretched over interlocking pieces of wood shaped like bones.