Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Evita at Regent's Park

Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park
9/10 August 2019

My fascination with the life of Eva Peron continues and, as promised back in May, I will continue writing about this enigmatic and extraordinary person.

Summer 2019 brought a brand new version of Evita and I was there for two performances to see for myself how this version compared to the rest.

Regent's Park is always worth a visit anyway and it was easy enough to find the venue.

Open Air means exactly that; there is no hiding place from the elements without leaving the arena and, as one could expect from a British Summer, the heavy downpours were never far away - and umbrellas are not allowed. The rain tested the resolve of the audience. Some passed the test but others did not and there is no re-admittance to the arena until after the interval.

The first of my two visits was on the Friday evening. The weather forecast was dreadful yet the serious rain held off until the very end.

Being outdoors allows the texture and atmosphere change as the light fades. The three photographs below show the stage first before the play started, then at the interval and finally at the very end of the evening.

This was a very different interpretation of the play compared to the others I have seen. The set utilises a minimalist approach, as do the costumes. There are pyrotechnics, streamers, ticker tape and costume changes on the stage.

The songs are the same, of course - but there are some wonderful new routines, with the one accompanying The Art of the Possible being a particular highlight.

Samantha Pauly's Evita is an uncomplicated mixture of the manipulative, ambitious and arrogant. Evita revels in the insults of the disturbed military and upper classes, perhaps overconfident of her power to remain at the top. This is fully in keeping with the ethos of the original play and is a perfectly valid point of view -and her performance is very strong - but I prefer the light and shade of a more ambiguous Eva Peron, which I always find more moving.

In fact the entire cast puts on a great show, with Trent Saunders' Che and Frances Mayli McCann's Mistress being particularly effective.

There is a strong, cynical edge to the motivations of the characters, including the small child who sings Santa Evita. Normally a moving aspect to the play, this time the child is shown to demand money towards the end of the song and even counts it before stashing it into her purse.

Balloons are used as symbol for the fragility of life and reputation. Audience expectations of the arrival of the classic Evita image - blonde hair, magnificent dress and arms raised, typically at a key balcony scene set at the Casa Rosada - are held in check until the tragic end, perhaps suggesting the iconic image and reputation were forged in the post-funeral fires of yet another new Argentina.

I retuned the next day for the matinee performance, which brought different shades again. It also brought a lot more rain.


Despite the weather, my 11th and 12th experiences of Evita were overwhelmingly positive and I found the new interpretation to be very interesting indeed. It gave me plenty to think about and added new perspectives to Evita's remarkable story.

The play runs until 21 September so perhaps I will be able to see it again before it closes. Meanwhile, there is another version of Evita somewhat closer to home coming up soon and I am already making arrangements...

Killing Joke at Subterania

Killing Joke
Subterania, London
10 August 2019
Another gig, another new venue.

Subterania just sounds right for a Killing Joke gig and their cult following. Indeed, they have history with the venue, having played their numerous times on what is essentially their home turf.

It was a weekend of strange weather and closed underground lines, combining to add difficulties to the experience. However, I found the long walk down Portabello Road to be very interesting and managed to dodge the downpours along the way.

The staff at Subterania were all very friendly and welcoming, which made a big difference. The venue itself is dark and cavernous. I opted for the balcony view rather than chance the mosh pit, which turned out to be a wise move.

I didn't catch the name of the first support act, mainly because it was not on any of the adverts or even announced on the night. They were unusual and very interesting, playing just one song - but it lasted for a quarter of an hour. It is hard to see the extraordinary range of instruments from the dark photograph, but note the chap in the centre is utilising a wooden board for his Sean-nós dancing.
Radical Dance Faction were interesting, too; politically-charged songs with a fusion of punk, dub and ska.

Soon it was time for the main event. The venue was packed by now and the temperature was already rising to an uncomfortable level.

There have been numerous changes over the 40 years of Killing Joke but they are back to the original quartet of Jaz Coleman (vocals). Paul Ferguson (drums), Geordie Walker (guitar) and Youth (bass). 

I had never seen Killing Joke before and was not sure what to expect from their live performance. I had seen Youth before, when he was playing with Jah Wobble in Bethnal Green back in 2016 (what a night that was) so knew that bass would be a prominent feature of the evening.

Jaz was the last onto the stage, all black boiler suit and heavy makeup. The crowd's reaction was extremely enthusiastic and during the second song - the inflammatory Wardance - the mosh pit suddenly became very lively indeed, with all the frantic pushing and shoving one would expect.

Killing Joke's music is hard rock; virtually industrial - dripping with apocalyptical menace.

There was tension in the air and this was apparent on the stage too, with Geordie Walker taking vocal exception to a couple of changes in the running order, which Youth completely ignored.

As the heat reached inferno levels, Jaz collapsed at the end of Loose Cannon. Given the nature of the songs I was initially unsure whether or not this was part of the act but it quickly became very apparent it wasn't. It took a bucket of ice cubes to revive Jaz but he insisted on continuing with the set immediately afterwards.
In fact the set list turned out to be in a state of flux. The the band left the stage it was assumed by some that would be the end of the evening, but Jaz gamely came back for a pulsating encore.

Youth was last off the stage; he left a bass note ringing out loud as a sonic memento.

The gallery will hopefully convey some of the gigs intensity.

It was certainly a very memorable evening and the temperature never stopped rising as the evening wore on. I had to buy an ice cream on my way back along Portobello Road just to try to cool down a little.



Sunday, 28 July 2019

Sham 69 at the Georgian Theatre

Sham 69 
The Georgian Theatre, Stockton
20 July 2019
The Georgian Theatre continues to present an extraordinary and diverse range of acts, featuring all genres of music. Their latest offering was a real invitation to don the bovver boots and 'unite the kids'. Sham 69! Who would have thought they would ever come to one of Stockton's most intimate of venues.

This could almost be called the 'class of '77' version: Jimmy Pursey on vocals, Dave Parsons on guitar and Dave Tregunna on bass with Robin Guy on drums (a relative newcomer, having joined in 2012). There is another version of Sham 69 still also on active duty, fronted by Tim V, but I am, sure the majority of people would favour the full Pursey experience.

This gig had be rearranged from its originally scheduled date in March, which is why I had a particularly busy weekend and had to dash back from Gateshead to be in time for this one.

No Thrills
No Thrills set the scene nicely with a loud and energetic performance. The hall then filled up in anticipation of Sham 69's appearance.

Pursey was the last one down to the stage; stooping in front of the drums, back to the audience, he beat his hands upon and down in time with the drumming before finally turning around to be greeted by a loud cheer from the audience.

They tore through the set at great speed, whipping up the crowd to a frenzy of punk energy. The central core of the crowd side exactly what one would expect, surging backwards and forwards and displacing everything and everyone one in their way with their tidal - and tribal - energy. A couple of people climbed onto people's shoulders but they were quickly brought down by the security staff. It was the wildest crowd I had seen at the Georgian Theatre since the night of The Skids. No real menace; no actual violence; just a few overenthusiastic local yokels making sure they had a good night.

Sham 69 were on great form but they missed several songs from the set list and - to the surprise of everyone - the show was all done and dusted by 10.30 p.m. The set had lasted a little under an hour, which seemed a shade on the short side.

Nevertheless, the gallery will hopefully convey a little of the energy Sham 69 brought to the evening.

2019 is shaping up to be a good year for punk and this was worthy follow-up to my recent Bikini Kill experience in Brixton - and the year is definitely not done with punk yet, believe me.




Summertyne Americana Festival 2019 (3): 'A Band on Ship!'

Rachel Harrington
Massy Ferguson
Summertyne River Cruise
21 July 2019
From Americana to punk and back again...and this time a river cruise was added to the equation.

This was another first for me; I had seen the Summertyne cruises advertised in previous years but they had always either clashed with other headliners I had wanted to see or sold out too quickly. Indeed, this year's had sold out when I first looked but the status changed as the event drew nearer.
It was great to have the opportunity to see Rachel Harrington again, less than 24 hours after the previous occasion. Seattle band Massy Ferguson were on board too. They were new to me and I was looking forward to an introduction to their music.

With my ears still ringing thanks to Sham 69 the night before, we set sail along the Tyne and I took to the top deck with a fine cup of tea.
No sooner had I finished when I heard a familiar singing voice; Rachel had started, without any our form of announcement! (This is the only improvement I could suggest for river cruises of future years). Time to swiftly head below deck, where I was able to catch the remainder of Little Pink and then to settle properly for the rest of the set. There was not a lot of space; it was an 'up close and personal' gig (I think the music was eventually piped throughout the boat) and very enjoyable to was too.
Rachel played for around 50 minutes and there was hardly a gap at all before Massy Ferguson came on to play a very interesting and engaging set which I liked very much.

They even did some sightseeing while playing.

I was about to take another cup of tea to the top deck and watch the world go by, thinking the musical entertainment had concluded, but - no! Rachel returned almost immediately with another killer set of songs and then it was straight back to Massy Ferguson, who played almost until the very moment we arrived back at the Gateshead Quayside.

Three hours of non-stop entertainment! The river cruise was certainly excellent value for money and proved to be a fitting finale to my frantic weekend. Everyone was in a good mood, nobody was talking over the songs (we'd have thrown them overboard if they had). All in all, it was a perfect start to the Summer.