An Open Symphony

It’s been forever since I attended a classical music concert. I can’t really even remember the last one. Which is why I was happy I managed to make it to Trafalgar Square yesterday for the Open Air Classics free concert where the London Symphony orchestra performed the Symphony Fantastique by Hector Berlioz.

Unfortunately, due to moving hassles, I didn’t make it to the square till 6, the concert being scheduled to begin at 6:30. So you can imagine that by this point it was rather full. In fact access to the square itself had been cordoned off and shut – a fact one of the ladies in charge seemed to delight in reminding us of every 5 seconds through her bullhorn.

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Of Monsters and Men: Live at The Empire

On Wednesday a friend and I caught Of Monsters and Men, the Icelandic indie-folk rock band, at the 02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, after I got my hands on some last-minute tickets. The evening was rather entertaining and if you’ve heard their music or are a fan, you know how lost you can get in it.

The opening act – a one man band called Mugison was quite… “interesting”. He started out by coming onto stage, admitting that he was a bit pissed (hilarious!) and played his first three songs on a self-crafted instrument that looked a bit like something an Engineering/Electronics student might construct for a project. The sound was definitely very sci-fi. Though he had a rather soulful and powerful voice, I have to say that this part of his set felt very self-indulgent. The music at times was harsh and didn’t even seem to go with the lyrics; it was almost like random sounds thrown together – it sort of reminded me of Ross playing his synth on Friends. The second half of his set was dramatically better. He picked up a guitar and played a few more songs. But unfortunately the set was still rather unfulfilling. He definitely has talent. And at times I felt that if he had a few more members for his band his sings would sound great. But I suppose that’s a personal artistic choice, and I respect that. Will say this though, he is a pretty funny guy – he seemed to really enjoy himself up there and not take himself too seriously.

The downside of this support act, entertaining though it may have been as far as my friend and I were taking the piss throughout his set, was that the crowd wasn’t really as fired up as it should have been when the main act came on – so it took a few songs before people really started feeling the music and jumping a bit – but we definitely got there. Of Monsters and Men has an amazing sound and their use of so many instruments makes them sound really big and powerful. Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting them to sound as big live. It’s easy to get that feel in a studio but to do it live – wow. It helps of course that they have 7 people up on stage. The contrast between the range of their two co lead singers –  the angelic notes of  Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and the mellow accompaniments of Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson – makes such a beautiful and sometimes spine-chillingly touching combination. By the time “Mountain Sound” rolled around, about half-way through their set, I was welling up with excitement. The band got most if its fame I’d say from the massive popularity of their single – “Little Talks”, which has a massive brass element which I think gives it some real power – but “Mountain Sound” and “King and Lionheart” are actually two of my favorite tracks.

If you haven’t already checked out this band, you absolutely must! – Of Monsters and Men

Rockin out with the D!

“Have you ever had your ass waxed? It hurts. But then it feels good, really good. Well that a lot like our next act.” This was the intro to Tenacious D’s performance of Tribute, their first song I ever heard, some 5 years ago. Then in 2006 came “The Pick of Destiny”, the movie masterpiece starring the incomparable JB and KG. And yesterday, October 24th 2012, I got to witness their glory in person.

I caught the last concert by Tenacious D on their ‘Rize of the Fenix’ Tour 2012 at the Hammersmith Apollo. It was easily one of the best gigs I have ever been to! The beauty of the D is that they are far different from your usual rock band. Yes they do rock. There’s no debate about that. But they are more than that. They are funny, and entertaining and just plain fun. They have a crazy sense of humor and their concert definitely showcased their particular brand of rock-comedy.

With the exception of “The Pick of Destiny”, the title track from their 2006 movie, they played every song that I was looking forward to. From Tribute to Dude to F**K Her Gently, their set list definitely did not disappoint a fan of many years who has been psyched about this night since he heard they were performing while he was in town.

And in a sheer moment of sick brilliance, the concert ended with the backdrop piece (which was Phoenix shaped oddly similar to male genitalia) lowering itself and shooting out hundreds of pieces of confetti, with pictures of individual spermatozoa (with Jack Black and Kyle Gass’ faces on them) all over the crowd. How very D!

On a side note: There was a surprise appearance by Julian Barratt (star of the show ‘The Mighty Boosh’) during a jazzy number that the band decided to throw into their repertoire. His presence may have been lost on many of the attendees but for a fan of the niche comedy show, it was quite a treat.

Once again Apollo you have shown me a great time indeed. I believe this may just be the beginning of a wonderful courtship : )