Charlie Chaplin: City Lights
Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights with a live organ accompaniment by Jonathan Eyre at Bradford Cathedral was an exemplary display of how silent film and improvised organ are so superbly suited. Eyre has a number of themes that alternately match Chaplin’s slapstick and the sometimes more serious side to what could have been labelled the cinematic world’s first rom-com.
Chaplin plays an oddball character who comes across a blind girl selling flowers and you could say it was love at first sight (if that wasn’t just so wrong!) Anyhow, he then encounters a suicidal drunk and desperately tries to save a wretched soul from death by drowning, and gets drenched in the process.
Chaplin is actually quite effeminate and suggestive to an alarming extent at times – but so funny with it the censors must have been laughing too hard to complain. The gist of it is that the leery deathwish turns all pally with Chaplin’s crazy character and they go back to his for drinks. As they paint the town red there are dozens of gags a minute with an ecstatic hilarity.
It transpires that the trampish Chaplin ends up with the snobby drunk’s Rolls Royce so now he can impress his heart’s desire and it works a treat with the naive blind girl selling flowers. But things take a turn for the worse when the posh bloke sobers up and now cannot even remember who Chaplin is.
On top of this the girl has a fever and her family are facing eviction, forcing Chaplin to get a job shovelling shit – again, achingly funny. Late to work he is sacked and winds up going in the ring as a boxer, hoping to fake it and split the winnings. But the cunning plan fails and a simply fantastic slapstick scene ensues.
Back in generous mode poshy gives Chaplin another wad, only to accuse him of theft soon afterwards. Chaplin gets the cash to his girl but then goes to prison for theft and is destitute on release. Don’t worry, he gets the girl, who sees him for what he is … ALL HEART.
Chaplin’s actions are mimicked inventively by Jonathan Eyre’s arrangement throughout that simply endears you to the form of silent cinema with live accompaniment – can we go back in time please?!
As seen at Bradford Cathedral, 9 May 2014. See www.bradfordcathedral.org for details of the Wednesday Lunchtime Organ Recital Series.
The Scooby Doo franchise has been on the go for some 45 years now but it is still as endearing and wonderfully funny after all that time. This stage version is more panto than musical and appeals to a toddler audience as much as the primary school groups who fill the Alhambra Theatre with ultra-enthusiastic screams and cheers.
There is Josh Little as the sensible, if nerdish Fred, with his blond quiff, Julia Cave as the air-headed Daphne in strikingly garish pink stockings, Louise Wright as the geekish Velma with a passion for Egyptology, Danny Stokes who superbly mimics Shaggy’s hunger-fuelled hilarity, and of course a great performance by Eddie Arnold of everyone’s fave cartoon doggy, Scooby Doo.
The show kicks off with a clap-a-long musical intro that has the audience on its feet and crying out to touch the characters as they break the fourth wall to enchant the kids. Velma’s friend Otto (Douglas Walker) has asked them over to solve the mystery of the pyramid. This is of course a subterfuge for the villainous mummies to use Velma’s keen mind to find the Pharaoh’s treasure.
There are lots of slapstick gags, some greatly dramatic lighting changes that go from pumping out light into the audience to casting us in the dark vaults of the pyramid. The performers are wildly enthusiastic throughout and this rubs off on the audience young and old.
When the baddies are finally caught and the Mystery Inc get ready to return home there is a rousing finale with some great choreography by Rosita Yarbor that leaves you with a feelgood factor as well as earworms that leave you humming the theme tune all night long! Another great family show at the Alhambra Theatre that is now celebrating its centenary year.
Until 18 May 2014, Alhambra Theatre, Bradford.
Tours nationally until 31 August 2014: http://www.scoobydoo-live.com/scoobydoo-buy-tickets.html
Coldplay’s new release further marks their significance as one of the greatest British pop artists of our time. Tracks like Midnight use novel and absorbing digital effects on the vocal tracks alongside a hypnotic bass and superb sequencer segments.
Magic is simple but instantly catchy and is a paean to fidelity and the preciousness of love. The flipside of love is dealt with too though on Another’s Arms, a ballad of jealousy, loneliness and longing.
Oceans is also a bittersweet love song, plaintive and melancholic with a fine guitar and synthesiser backing. While Always in My Head again deals with absence and memory and check out the second single, A Sky Full of Stars, full of wonder at the cosmos. Simply their best yet.
Damon Albarn’s debut solo album, Everyday Robots, is a reflective and introspective exploration of the artist’s inner self. It combines his interest in the esoteric, mentioning ‘the standing stones’ and the ‘Green Man’, with his mastery of the latest technology, always used lovingly, by no means tech for tech’s sake.
A case in point is Aitor Throup’s video for the title track where Throup aims to use the symbols metaphors and visual systems that could get to the core of what Albarn was trying to get across and at the same time focus on him as an individual.
There is an ancient aspect to this and a connection to nature, whether it be the timeless essence of the universe, mother Earth or pagan rituals. But also the robotic, with the video creating a digital Albarn using software and facial reconstruction techniques.
One minute it is just a skull, then gradually layers of virtual ‘skin’ are applied, appropriate given the cerebral nature of Everyday Robots and the idea of getting beneath the surface too.
Matt Cronin has edited a video of Albarn’s tablet footage for the lilting melancholy tune that is Lonely Press Play. Somehow you cannot ever imagine Albarn being lonely, especially given the number of his collaborators, but anyhow this is spiked by the idea that you could lift out of this mood with ‘click’.
More akin to his Gorillaz work is Heavy Seas of Love, as ever beautifully produced and here in a more optimistic mood but still esoteric though: ‘radiance is in you’ certainly sounds rather Rosicrucian.
Mr Tembo is a funky catchy number inspired by a baby elephant Albarn met in Mkomazi, Tanzania and features African backing accompaniment. Similarly, You & Me has what sounds like an African steel drum and has a wonderful flow that drifts on with some great guitar work. It has an end-of-the-days feel ‘when the twilight comes’ and ‘it all goes round again’, the autumn of life’s cycle. There is a verse with a drugs reference that much of the press have picked up on but as Albarn told the Guardian reporter ‘Do we have to there?’ which of course they did!
I’m not sure if The Selfish Giant, which starts with the line ‘Celebrate the passing drugs’ may deal with this too, an unconscious fear of what he may have lost if the habit took over. ‘Freedom taking cocaine’ is mentioned in Photographs, a track which conjures up wild fantastic cityscapes.
Hostiles continues the spiritual quest, ‘trying to find the key..’ and magically ‘fighting off the hostiles’ for protection.
The most nostalgic track is Hollow Ponds which refers to the heat wave of 1976 when he would have been an adolescent, and then when ‘half my road was now a motorway’ in 1991 and other significant events and dates.
While the slowest and most pared down track is The History of a Cheating Heart, anad again nostalgic: ‘I always go back to the moment / I fear the most’.
So this is an exceptional album that you can explore and have adventures with your self.