A final round-up of shows towards the end of last year which I never got around to writing full reviews of at the time.
Elvis Costello, Vienna Konzerthaus, 31 October 2011
Here was an oddity – an out-of-the-(almost)-blue solo concert by Elvis Costello in what is, after the Staatsoper and the Musikverein, the poshest venue in Vienna, and the only one of the three that hosts regular non-classical gigs. Costello is a singer-songwriter I’ve never quite got to grips with. Maybe I thought that seeing him in solo mode would expose some kind of truth at the heart of his songs, but it never really happened. I’m no authority on his music and I only recognized about half the songs; the one I’ve always loved the most, “Oliver’s Army”, was frustratingly notable by its absence. The anguished “Shipbuilding”, “I Want You” (still one of the most frighteningly psychotic love songs ever written) and the inspired medley of “New Amsterdam/You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” were all massively impressive, but there were also too many songs overstuffed with words and lacking in winning tunes.
Carla Bozulich/Evangelista, London Café Oto, 13 November 2011
A brief visit to London in November enabled me to check out hipster venue Café Oto for the first time. This gig by Carla Bozulich and her band differed little from the last time I saw them in Warsaw two years ago, right down to the walkabout among the audience during the big showstopping number “Baby That’s The Creeps”, which inevitably resulted in her crashing into a table or two near the front. Still, there’s something viscerally compelling about Bozulich. I think it has to do with slowness, the eerie calm and unhurriedness she projects which occasionally erupts into seething energy and rage.
Oliver Welter, Vienna Chelsea, 12 December 2011
My last concert of 2011 was another solo affair, but I found much more to admire and enjoy in Oliver Welter’s plaintive laments than I did in Elvis Costello’s wordy digressions. I’m still waiting patiently for a new Naked Lunch album and gigs, which will hopefully materialize later this year, but in the meantime this did nicely. A sprinkling of unusual cover versions – “River Deep Mountain High”, Hot Chocolate’s “Emma” – stood of a piece with Welter’s own songs, haunted reveries anatomizing love and loss in stark, emotionally unsparing detail.
I see we were at the Konzerthaus on the same evening… It was also a British night over in the Mozart Saal; contemporary composers like George Benjamin, Harrison Birtwistle, Thomas Adès (great performances from the London Sinfonietta). Not the kind of thing to attract the Costello crowd you’d think, but I was sat next to a gentleman in the after-concert (pianist Marino Formenti playing Benjamin and Cerha) who had been at that event, improbably enough. The British ambassador showed up as well; I recognized his face from the ORF’s coverage of the royal wedding and approached him – admirable that he was there out of genuine appreciation for the music and the London Sinfonietta, rather than just to be seen.
Anyway, interesting as always to read your thoughts on an area of the Vienna music scene which I don’t follow as closely.
Thanks for the comment and the kind words. Yes, I also read your excellent blog regularly (and thanks for the link, by the way, which I’ve reciprocated), but the Vienna classical music scene is something I know next to nothing about – in fact, I have to confess I’ve not been to a single classical concert in the six years I’ve been here. I’m always on the lookout though. A friend of mine uses the calendar function on the Last FM website to produce a rather nice list of upcoming concerts of all kinds of experimental and contemporary music, including the likes of Alte Schmiede. You might find it useful:
Your best way in to the Vienna classical scene is probably the Konzerthaus, tbh. Artistic values at the Musikverein and Staatsoper can seem a little stuffy.
Thanks for the calendar link, some interesting stuff on there. I’ve heard of most of the venues, though there are also many unfamiliar to me and in addition to the Alte Schmiede the only one I can claim to know well is the Subterrarium.