Pursued by a Bear »

  • It’s a conspiracy! Dan Brown at the Dublin Writers Festival

    March 5, 2013 @ 1:32 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    In something of a star turn for the Dublin Writers Festival, Dan Brown will be marking the publication of his new novel Inferno with an appearance at the National Concert Hall in May.

    The author of The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons and Digital Fortress has variously been described as saving the publishing industry, destroying the Catholic Church, fuelling a boom in tourism to Paris and Rome, and being part of a shadowy cabal of terrible writers bent on destroying our reading standards.

    Dan Brown being Plotty McPlotterson

    Either way, it’s a heavyweight name on the festival, so cardinals’ hats off to the organisers. The festival takes place from May 20th to 26th, with further details yet to be released. (more…)

  • If you only do one thing this weekend … be shocked by the new

    February 28, 2013 @ 5:58 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Aa Here leave it etc and so on: The shock of the new is on offer at the National Concert Hall this weekend, when New Music Dublin takes over the building. It’s an eclectic programme with a number of intriguing offerings, chief among which is Saturday’s concert by the preposterously named A Winged Victory for the Sullen. This is a collaboration between ex-Sparklehorser Adam Wiltzie and composer Dustin O’Halloran that mixes post-rock ambient sounds with more classical influences.

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    Also on Saturday, Arvo Pärt and Louis Andriessen will be attempting to usurp governments, when the RTE Concert Orchestra performs Pärt’s Symphony No 4 – a direct criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin – and Andriessen’s De Staat – a piece from 1976 that has developed a cult following.

    The Hilliard Ensemble blew my tiny mind with their 2011 concert in St Patrick’s Cathedral with Jan Garbarek, and now they are back, playing a double header with Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson.

    On Sunday evening, Crash Ensemble will be delivering its Europa survey of cutting-edge European music. The programme features works by Simon Steen Andersen (which uses text from Nelson Mandela’s prison diaries), Georg Fredrich Haas (in this piece, the audience sits within the players), Heiner Goebbels (this work is a reconstructed ballet), and Michel Van Der Aa. The latter’s piece is called Here. Anyone heard heckling with an “Aa here, leave it out” will probably get thrown out – but it will be well worth it.

    Pop goes the cello: If that’s not adventurous enough for you how about some Swedish fantasy cello pop? Linnea Olsson is happy to oblige in the Workman’s Club on Saturday night.

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    Theatre of note: The premise of Noteworthy, which runs at TheatreUpstairs at Lanigan’s Bar in Dublin until Saturday, is intriguing. A woman burn’s her deceased brother’s suicide note, some time after it has been read and fixated upon by her family. The oddness creeps in, though, when it becomes apparent that the note is a fake. (In a further unsettling piece of theatricality, the dead brother is on-stage throughout, played by Barry O’Connor.)

    Róisín Coyle’s short play, directed by Janet Moran, is pitched as a dark comedy, and props to the team for tackling an issue that should be right at the top of the agenda in Ireland, cultural or otherwise. Click here for more information, and here for Peter Crawley’s review.

    All the lads: You can always rely on your friends for a helping hand, and guitarist Henry McCullough has more friends than most. A benefit concert for McCullough, who suffered permanent damage after a heart attack in November, takes place in Vicar Street on Sunday, and more than a few of the great and good are showing up to show their support.

    McCullough began his career with The Skyrockets and Gene and The Gents (they don’t make band names like they etc and so on), before touring with the likes of The Animals, Pink Floyd and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He joined Sweeney’s Men and Joe Cocker’s Grease Band, meaning he was on-stage during that show at Woodstock in 1969.

    McCullough was also in Wings, which just goes to show that nobody’s perfect, but quit in 1973 and then played in numerous solo and group projects.

    Among those on the roster on Sunday are Sweeney’s Men, The Fleadh Cowboys, Christy Moore, Declan Synnott, Mick Flannery, John Spillane, Honor Heffernan, Johnny Duhan, The Ed Deane Band, Jimmy Smith and more. Click here for the necessaries.

  • Live review: Keith Jarrett

    February 27, 2013 @ 12:27 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    NCH, Dublin

    The atmosphere in the National Concert Hall ahead of Keith Jarrett’s first performance in Ireland in 30 years is not so much tense as terrified. The pre-concert announcement for phones to be switched off is repeated more than once, and there’s a personal appeal for everyone to “focus on enjoying the music”, as the concert is being recorded. This, together with Jarrett’s reputation for being sensitive to extraneous noise while on stage, creates an atmosphere of awed apprehension, with most people barely daring to breathe.

    It’s a welcome relief, then, that Jarrett hasn’t read the script, and he breezes onstage in flying form. Between tracks, he bows frequently, full of banter and anecdotes; when a phone inevitably goes off, he laughs about it; he even solicits requests (sort of). Are we sure we have our man?

    Well, yes. Given the sounds coming out of the grand piano, there could only be one particular person on stage. He begins in complex, classical mode, improvising through a dense, articulate piece that promises to bring his concert into really challenging areas; this is a one-off, though, and he never quite returns to this type of playing. (more…)

  • If you only do one thing this weekend … back a Dead cert

    February 22, 2013 @ 3:33 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Music, music everywhere: Where would you find a musical selection like it? At the height of summer, with festivals sitting cheek-by-jowl with one-off events, you usually can’t move without finding yourself in some cracking gig or other almost by accident. But this weekend would rival any August bank holiday for musical choice.

    There’s Ethan Jones, usually to be found working with the likes of Ryan Adam, Ray La Montagne and Laura Marling, now going solo and rolling into the Sugar Club in Dublin tonight. There’s Mark Eitzel, former frontman of American Music Club, currently touring deft cracker of an album Don’t Be a Stranger to Cork, Kilkenny and Galway. And Derry dudes Fighting with Wire are in Dublin tonight for what is reputedly their last gig.

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    Last night, Keith Jarrett was delivering his first show here in 30 years (I’ll have a review in the paper on Monday), and for those of you still with a hunger for jazz after last weekend’s 12 Points extravaganza, Get the Blessing are happy to oblige. They are currently making their way around the country, bringing their jazz-funk-rock live show to far-flung places. Their tour opener in Whelan’s on Tuesday night was a cracker, and here’s an interview I did with Clive Deamer earlier in the week if you need further convincing. (more…)

  • 12 Points jazz festival day four review: Enrico Zanisi Trio, Cactus Truck and Beats and Pieces

    February 18, 2013 @ 10:11 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    If pianist Nikolas Anadolis is the Oscar Wilde of the 12 Points festival, than the Enrico Zanisi Trio (EZT) are its Samuel Beckett. The band open their set with a sparse track of rare beauty and delicacy in which every note is paying rent, before rolling into more straightforward territory. During that first track, the intensity in the room is such that it feels as if the audience is holding its collective breath, but from there on in, everyone breathes a little easier.

    This is a set of sparse, austere music shot through with classical influences. Italian jazz has a tendency for the romantic, and so it is with EZT – their songs are lyrical and refined, built around the melodic lines of Zanisi on the piano, with smooth, tailored drumwork by Alessandro Paternesi, and Joseph Rehmer giving everything a soft landing on the double bass. (more…)

  • Competition: Win tickets to CoisCéim Dance Theatre’s latest show, Pageant

    @ 6:56 pm | by Laurence Mackin


    Pageant, the latest show from CoisCéim Dance Theatre, premieres this Saturday, February 23rd, at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin, before embarking on a five-stop Irish tour between then and March 19th.

    The show is the latest from David Bolger and Muirne Bloomer, who have just returned from New York, where they were showcasing the moving Swimming With My Mother.

    Pageant focuses on the extraordinary aspect of the everyday, from the workplace, to the street and the home. The producers say that the show, set around a fictional ceremony, celebrates the performer in us all: “Have you ever made a spectacle of yourself? Can or have you walked the tightrope of life, jumping through hoops while bending over backwards to please others? There is pageantry in everything we do and CoisCéim Dance Theatre’s latest production demonstrates this to ‘a tee’ while staging the most fun display of theatre, dance, psychology and so much more that you’ll see on stage all year.”

    It may have been beautiful to look at, but the dancers’ comprehension of the rules of cricket were loose at best

  • 12 Points jazz festival day three: Hanna Paulsberg Concept, Nikolas Anadolis and Koenigleopold

    February 16, 2013 @ 5:08 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    There’s an awful lot to be said for tradition, and the Hanna Paulsberg Concept (HPC) from Trondheim in Norway make more than a few strong arguments in its favour on day three of the 12 Points jazz festival.

    They open their set with Potter’s Lullaby, a lovely, warm track that sets out this band’s old-school stall. From there, drummer Hans Hulbaekmo introduces a sweet solo, drumming on the skins with his fingers and gradually layering up a groove that the band slickly fall in with. Like all the bands at 12 Points, HPC are young, but unlike most of the bands they have a sound and a feel that should be years beyond them.

    This is a band of class and distinction built around the Wayne Shorter tones of Paulson’s tenor saxophone. There are no straightahead rock beats to pulse things through, no hip hop breaks or nods to electronica. This is straight-up jazz, delivered with style, from a band not afraid to disappear into a song and look like they are really enjoying themselves. Excellent work all round. (more…)

  • 12 Points jazz festival day two: Thali, Soil Collectors and OKO

    February 15, 2013 @ 4:24 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Day two of the 12 Points festival at Dublin’s Project Arts Centre had a strong vocal line-up, which turned out to be a very good thing indeed.

    First up were swiss act Thali, led by vocalist Sarah Büchi, a musician who has a fascination with the music of southern India, and lives partly in Dublin, where she teaches in Newpark Music Centre. The ensemble’s sound is an intriguing blend of her raga-rich vocals, stretched across microtonal scales, and a more straightforward European feel. It’s a cracking combination, fizzing with invention and complex rhythmic ideas, but without betraying a groove that will hook in even a casual listener.

    The band’s approach reaches its zenith in a track built around the Indian konnakol technique of singing percussive lines. Büchi sets off at a rattling pace while the rest of the band fall in frenetic step behind her lead. It’s a formidable feat of rhythmic prowess and endurance, particularly from Andre Pusaz on the kit, that does the track justice. Büchi, though, is unlikely to realise her dream of hearing a stadium of fans singing this song at the top of their lungs; after all, we can’t all take free kicks like Ronaldo. (more…)

  • If you only do one thing this weekend . . . count your blessings

    February 14, 2013 @ 5:11 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Masterful Maher: We’ve mentioned it before, but this weekend is your last chance to see Alice Maher’s retrospective at Imma in its temporary home beside the National Concert Hall, so if you haven’t had the time to drop in, do find an hour or two. It’s a captivating, intricate and fascinating show, that has been assiduously curated so that even a casual visitor won’t feel overwhelmed by what’s on show.

    Maher’s work, as if it needs saying, is outstanding, from the raw intimidation of her naturalist sculptures – briars and thorns lashed into a strange ball that seems to almost pulse out of the corner of one room – and the mystery of her film work – Cassandra’s Necklace features recent Ifta and Irish Times Theatre award winner Charlie Murphy – to her considerate, adroit installations. My favourite piece in the show is L’Universite, a site-specific piece made for the show that uses the venue’s former lecture halls and its indelible graffiti. There’s also an excellent guide to the exhibition here, for those who want more information on the pieces.

    Ordinary deaths: Death of the Tradesmen is Shaun Dunne and Talking Shop Ensemble’s successor to I’m a Homebird. The show, which debuted at the Fringe in 2012, focuses on Willy, a 54-year-old tradesman down on his luck and scrabbling for work and nixers in a car-crash economy. It is the relationship between Willy, played by Dunne, and his wife, played by Lauren Larkin, that is at the heart of this show. As their situation hardens and the walls close in, Larkin struggles to maintain the small shard of domestic bliss it has taken her years to fence off, the cracks widen between them, and the security of their home life buckles and breaks under the battery of everyday bills and pressure. This is smart, effective and relevant theatre with strong performances that will leave a mark on any audience not made of stone. It’s at the Lir until Saturday. (more…)

  • 12 Points Jazz Festival day one: Mopo, Olivia Trummer and Ozma

    @ 4:07 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Mopo are exactly the kind of band that those cynical of jazz love to hate. The Helsinki trio walk on stage to open the 12 Points festival, banging pieces of chunky metal together, hammering lids of tin, and generally making an unholy and unmusical racket, before launching into some energetic bebop that is colourful and creative. Why blow one saxophone, for example, when you can blow two? (And, in fairness, the track is called Heavy Metal, so it does exactly what it says on the tin.)

    From there, the band move into the more composed More Ducks, a terrific track that spirals down into a rich soundscape that sounds like a film-noir quay-side scene: the kit and cowbells of Eeti Nieminen rattle like tin cans on a cobbled street; the sax of Linda Fredriksson honks softly like ships shifting in the night; and the double bass of Eero Tikkannen rattles with low thuds like rope and rigging.

    Mopo double down on the sax. Photographs: John Cronin

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