Review of Tim Minchin, Brighton Centre 25/10/21
[Main Photo: Tim Minchin + Band, by Neal Richardson 25/10/21]
I was one of the lucky ones to witness the one-off comical/philosophy/musical/lyricist genius that is Tim Minchin LIVE in Brighton last night (25th Oct), as part of his BACK Again Tour
The man is a force of nature – in a class all of his own. His songs and soliloquies are all breathtaking in their wit and wordplay.
He started, predictably unpredictably by appearing alone at the piano in darkness, and regaling us with his comic-dark song “If this plane goes down”, thus setting the tone for an evening full of musical and comic surprises, that had all of us at turns in hysterics, disbelief (at his lyricism) and tears.
And soliloquies there certainly were! I would estimate that the performance time was equally split between the marvellously-inventive songs (easy to see why he was entrusted with Dahl’s Matilda), and his powerful rhetoric, both of which reward the careful listener (there are a LOT of words) at his unparalleled crafts-person-ship. He delights in provocation, in popping pomposity, hypocrisy, tribalism, religiosity, social media and faux-beliefs along the way, together with much ire at the confirmation biases with which we all inevitably operate, and his main point: how hard it is for any of us to change our minds! But it is all done with such good humour, impishness and well-place self-deprecation that it would be hard to take offence instead of being rightly challenged by his prodding.
The inventive songs came thick and fast (I refer here to a few examples just by the titles I gave them):
Dilemma: the conflict between his piano-playing key signatures and his vocal range… resulting in him playing in F major and singing in F sharp!
Mitsubishi Colt: an astounding bravura display of machine-gun words set over a walking bass in the left hand with a super-fast improvised line in the right hand.
Power of Prayer: A complete, logical destruction of its title, just broiling in acerbic wit. The words filled two pages in the A3 souvenir programme, yet Minchin had no paper aide memoire throughout the gig.
After the first few numbers, the 7-piece band appeared as suddenly as he had, filling the sound out fully in true rock-star fashion. All the players were, of course, top notch and multi-skilled. Once again I have to single-out the drummer/vocalist Brad Webb, who once again absolutely nailed it as the power behind the musical throne.
The philosophical challenges and quips came thick and fast too, like so many fireworks in the Minchin firmament: “The self is an illusion based on fear”; “You need eyebrows to get irony, that’s why seagulls are so literal”; “Churches are like football teams – just with mascots that can fly”; “I’m a proud empiricist” and so forth.
Periodically he treated us to his “Glossary of Terms”, revelling in explaining some of his forthcoming cultural references to younger attendees (“I can’t believe there are fully-grown adults here born since 2000!”).
Then in the best traditions of stagecraft, several times at a high-point of energy and hilarity, he would slay us all with a profound ballad, “The Absence of You” and “I’ll Take Lonely Tonight” being two of such.
The second set opened with a self-declaration of his being uxorious (“I want you to have to go away and look things up”), but with an ode to his wife that was a little more shall we say statistically-based. “She hates it” he admitted.
There was a stunning video projected in sync with his tune about “Leaving L.A.”, followed by his 9-minute mini rock-opera about… “Cheese!”, featuring his self-proclaimed best pun ever written (no spoilers here).
More excellent diatribes followed, winding up to the finale, the autobiographical “I talked too much and stayed too long” – which he declaimed as his preferred epitaph!
The gentle chorale encore, using the whole band to blend stunningly-rich vocal harmonies, belied the truth behind the grit and causticity of the preceding proceedings… actually this whole exercise had been a paean to love.
Minchin’s writing – of both script and lyrics – is incredible; his wordplay as good as anyone who ever lived.
It’s little wonder he has been awarded THREE honorary Doctorates so far.
He is indeed in a top class all of his own. Thrilling.
Neal Richardson, Seaford UK
26th October 2021
Respect – film on UK general release 10th September; Details from KovaPR.com
You’d be forgiven for thinking that a film about Aretha would be an extended sugary buildup to the recording of the eponymous song… but you’d be completely unprepared for the hard-hitting masterpiece that unfolds.
Mention must first be made of a jaw-dropping performance from Jennifer Hudson as Aretha, both in acting and singing, the latter channelling the great lady herself to an unbelievable degree. Ms Hudson sang it all live during the filming, and there are enough closeups to prove it.
Quite simply, an astounding bravura work.
Childhood Aretha is beautifully captured by young actress Skye Dakota Turner too.
It’s a long film, but Aretha had a long and eventful life.
The cinematic pace doesn’t falter, and tackles just about every serious issue of the day – racism, segregation, the civil rights movement, domestic violence, child-abuse, religion vs music industry, mental health… and hooks you in right there in the first 15 minutes.
All the supporting cast are wonderful, and make the most of the no-holds-barred script. The sets and costumes are meticulous in their historical accuracy, even down to the microphones, studio equipment and musical instruments.
The music re-creations are very cleverly done, with proper musicians playing actual instruments mainly live on-camera.
There are nice insights too into songwriting and production. (Having produced many albums in studios I could appreciate the largely-authentic agony and triumph of these moments!).
I would say this hard-hitting biopic should be essential viewing for musicians of all genres, and anyone else with any appreciation of a truly legendary singer.
Be prepared to be informed, shocked, elated, awe-struck and moved to tears.
The last 15 minutes are among the most powerful bits of cinema I’ve ever seen.
31/8/21 Seaford, UK
Neal Richardson’s “Splash Point Jazz Show” LIVESTREAM GIG goes out tonight! 7pm GMT on our YouTube channel and FaceBook page!
Multiple cameras, grand piano, studio-quality sound and broadcast on FB & YT so you can watch it on your telly!
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Go on, try it now!
Being the end of January, the theme this week is all about Money and Taxes!!
Have you done your Tax Return yet?
Let us encourage, commiserate, and distract you… 🤣
Seeya later 🙂
Neal & The Splash Point Jazz Mob