Reviews

 

Irish Times writers review a selection of events.

Pink

Point, Dublin

Original, daring, complex, astounding . . . with traits like these, it's remarkable that Pink still has a career in pop music. When she first emerged, an aggressive, boxing antidote to coquettes in school uniforms, her outsider status set her apart. Now it threatens to set her adrift, as her ever-more adventurous records rack up ever-diminishing sales.

Mercifully, if there is any pressure to conform, Pink does not feel it. She gives her concert the punch of pop, the snarling energy of rock, the intimacy of a campfire sing-song and the astonishing spectacle of a mildly pornographic cirque du soleil. It's safe to say you've never seen anything like it.

Standing nine feet tall (at a rough guess) in severe black leathers and shades, her platinum-blonde hair whipped into stiff peaks, Pink's first look might be best described as Brigitte Nielsen - The Gestapo Years.

She swaggers through Cuz I Can, the defiant blast of Trouble and the tortured anthem Just Like a Pill with a dangerous icy allure - although nothing so forbidding that fans won't throw teddy bears and tricolours at her all night.

By the time Pink launches into Stupid Girls, a ferociously catchy indictment of "porno paparazzi girls" and vapid, post-feminist culture in general, she has assumed a red wig and harlot shades (Lindsay Lohan - The Tabloid Years) and the tension of her place in pop begins to seep through.

For all her repudiation of unattainable body images, Pink will strip down to her skimpies and, suspended in a net high above the stage, provide an acrobatically racy display of her own unattainable body.

Of course, Pink only does eroticism when it involves death defying, just as she tempers her poppier confections with an arched eyebrow or a hard frown.

It's not for nothing that her most infectious hits, There You Go and U & Ur Hand - or even the quiet protest Dear Mr President - are written in the key of disdain.

That she can so naturally balance such dissent with bluesy interludes and anthemic covers owes a lot to the dexterity of her muscular voice, its rich tone smoking and crackling like a log on the fire.

In a final, astonishing encore of Get The Party Started, Pink returns to the air, singing and spinning, a dizzying embodiment of all things: power and beauty, sound and spectacle.Peter Crawley

Gabriela Montero 

NCH, Dublin

In this her Irish debut, Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero gave an ample and varied display of the unusual talent for which she is winning international renown - improvisation.

She is reviving a distinguished tradition. After the 19th century (when it was de rigueur for concert virtuosi to dash off impromptu fantasias on themes from the latest operas), classical pianists ceded the art of extempore playing to organists and jazz musicians.

The only composed item in Montero's programme was Rachmaninov's Sonata No 2. Her account was fantastical and sometimes oddly accented, yet her affinity with this last of the Romantic pianists was strongly evident in many of the improvised items.

Five of these were based on themes suggested or partly suggested by members of the audience. And there was no danger of this being a mere repertoire test, since Montero insisted that those who would call the tune must actually sing it to her.

Certain themes she instantly switched to an opposite mood. The big tune from the finale of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No 2 thus became a Nordic, minimalist toccata, and Mozart's Rondo alla Turca a prelude whose swing-time central section was enclosed by music of a distinctly Rachmaninovian hue.

Further suggestions yielded a delicate Chopin-like treatment of Field's Nocturne No 5 in B flat, a wildly syncopated Venezuelan joropo with an ostinato bass, and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue interspersed with Baroque snatches in Venetian concerto style.

Revisiting some of the themes from her CD released last June, Bach and Beyond, Montero served up a cool pastorale on Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, an arabesque and habanera on the Two-Part Invention in F, and an extended fantasia on the celebrated organ toccata in D minor.

Her delivery of this unwritten music was assured, and its stylistic modulations were surrepticious. Andrew Johnstone

Blue of the Night

The Sugar Club, Dublin

Unashamedly eclectic and refreshingly unpredictable, Lyric FM's Paul Herriot hosted his third live broadcast of Blue Of The Night in the heady confines of The Sugar Club - and it was a spread worthy of a Peter Greenaway screen treatment. Classical guitar and saxophone duo, Craig Ogden and Gerard McChrystal, set the thermometer high with their sinuous and heady interpretation of Andy Scott's Nemesis.

Ogden's highly disciplined guitar lines traced a pinprick route through Scott's scarifying three-movement set piece, while McChrystal burrowed and mined, and ultimately scaled its petulant peaks and troughs.

McChrystal's saxophone swings acrobatically from high octane celebration to sweet and low down melancholy in one and the same breath, wheedling more and more layers of complexity from Ogden's distilled guitar lines.

Her Ballybunion roots notwithstanding, Karen Tweed lured her beloved piano accordion to geographical corners far removed from the wilds of north Kerry.

Handling her potentially bullish instrument with remarkable finesse, Tweed blithely plied a picaresque journey, accompanied by the magnificent pianist, Timo Alakotila.

Content to inhabit countless, highly unusual collaborations (from Swap to The Two Duos and with Alakotila, May Monday), Tweed's rapacious appetite for genteel music takes quantum leaps when it collides with Alakotila's transcendent piano. Her borrowing of Chris Wood's Etoile De Lusignac was a particularly divine slice of musical magpie-ism, with piano accordion and guitar conjuring the bacchanalian delights of French life with impish relish.

The hype surrounding Julie Feeney's debut, Thirteen Songs, is refreshingly deserved.

She's a magnificent cross between Stina Nordenstam and Leonard Cohen, with a large dash of Ute Lemper tossed into the mix, all the better to alight on every syllable and diphthong, unpicking their constituent sounds with the manic attention of a divinely demented professor.

Feeney's obtuse take on life, in equal measure witty and wise, challenges the listener to follow every chord change from the glamorous gloom of Aching to the serrated edges of Autopilot and the grinding insistence of You Broke The Magic.

Herriot's unbridled eclecticism found its match in the Phil Ware Trio, with Dave Redmond on bass cutting a particularly mesmerising De Niro-like figure as he grimaced his way through a short set.

With a surprise appearance by Honor Heffernan, the trio's expansive melding of piano, double bass and percussion lent the evening a fittingly louche finale.

It's no surprise that they're one of the hardest-working jazz trios in the country, with an appetite for exploration that matched pound for pound with an insistent connection to their listeners. A heady night that tickled and challenged in equal measure. Siobhán Long