Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Paris: Joseph Arthur @ Galerie Chappe and Peter Gabriel @ Bercy

For three years since I left Paris, I've been waiting for an excuse to go back, so when Joseph Arthur suggested I should come to his gallery opening, in one of my more impulsive moments, I booked an overnight bus for the next evening and spent one incredible day in one of my favourite cities.

I arrived at 8am and began with something of a nostalgia tour, heading straight for St Eustache, a church that I always preferred to its more glamorous cousin Notre Dame. I then strolled through Ile de la Cité to my "fancy apartment on the Boulevard Saint Michel" (more like a nunnery in reality) and greatly confused the receptionist with my strange desire to wander around and reminisce. I got similarly nostalgic in les Jardins du Luxembourg, which I visited every day while I lived there, whether rushing through on my way to class, catching up on some work among the flowers or just people-watching.

Then in the evening I headed up into Montmartre to Galerie Chappe, "Paris' highest gallery", specialising in art related to music and film. While I'd seen many of Joe's paintings spread around Heath Street Baptist Church, it was amazing to be in a gallery packed full of them, ranging from intricate, detailed pieces to huge murals, all with Joe's signature figures. One of my favourites was a painting on the back of a door that Joe had found on the street and taken back to his hotel room. As well as enjoying the art, I got to chat to lots of interesting music people, including Joe himself, his band - Bill Dobrow and Rene Lopez - and Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Jesse Harris.

Joe performing Saint of Impossible Causes surrounded by his paintings:

I was incredibly lucky to be in the right place at the right time, because that night Joe's good friend and mentor Peter Gabriel was in town, playing the 17,000 seater stadium in Bercy, and I got to go along with Joe, Bill and other friends for free. While not a huge Gabriel fan by any means (I know Solsbury Hill obviously, and In Your Eyes from seminal 80s smush-fest Say Anything) but wow, the man knows how to put on a show! Gabriel bounded with incredible energy throughout, aided by Manu Katché on drums and a spectacular light show. I was completely swept up in the joy of it all and the enthusiasm of the enormous crowd of fans.

All in all it was an unforgettable evening, made even more special by the fact that it was totally unexpected. I should take spontaneous trips more often!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

American Psycho - The Musical

When I first heard about the musical adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho back in the spring, I was amazed that someone shared my esoteric tastes. It turns out there are quite a few of us out there who enjoy the combination of singing, dancing and graphic murder, as the show sold out incredibly quickly. Perhaps the main appeal of American Psycho for most was curiosity about just how Duncan Sheik (music and lyrics) and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (book) would pull it off, but I'm glad to say that they surpassed all my expectations, creating a wonderfully weird and utterly involving new musical.

Certain things were to be expected from any adaptation of Easton Ellis' 1991 cult classic: synths, neon and designer labels abound, with a mixture of 80s pop and newly written song and dance numbers including Hard Bodies and You Are What You Wear, while the minimalist interior design, video tapes, yellow cabs and pretentious restaurants of Es Delvin's amazing set design submerge us in Patrick's world.

Much less expected was the choice for the lead: former Dr Who star Matt Smith. Opening with a spectacularly ripped Patrick Bateman in nothing but a pair of white designer boxer shorts and the iconic blue face-mask of the movie poster, it is immediately clear that we are going to see a very different side to Smith. His singing is solid in an 'alone in the shower' way and his dancing is clunky, particularly against the rest of the extremely talented cast (Cassandra Compton was especially impressive as Patrick's lovelorn secretary Jean), yet this proved to be inspired casting. Beyond the shock of seeing Smith in a role so far removed from his loveable, quirky Doctor, his slightly awkward performance brings out one of the most interesting angles of Bateman, which is lacking from Christian Bale's handsome and suave portrayal: Patrick really doesn't fit in with his yuppie society, but everyone around him is too self-absorbed to notice.

While American Psycho has repeatedly faced outrage from moralistic critics over the passed 22 years for its shocking depravity, this production by Rupert Goolde features surprisingly little gore. Instead, the focus is on the satirical nature of Easton Ellis' story, bringing out the dark humour with which the writer passed judgement on the world he was entering as a young man, while at the same time delving deeper into Bateman's troubled psyche. The result is an unexpected treat: a show at once thought-provoking, funny, moving, experimental, musically catchy and aesthetically thrilling.

American Psycho runs at the Almeida until 1 Feb 2014. It sold out long ago, but returns may be available on the day: www.almeida.co.uk/event/americanpsycho