V LIVE BILLY BRAGG
Oueen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 20 Oct. The sound was a bit muffled. ‘You Woke Up My Neighbourhood"s swinging hoedown jive filtered through, its hum-ability factor aurally i crippled. Then again, we were I standing outside in the street, the burly
Attraction’s good bIoke-ness and socialist magnanimity. Persevere we
did, in we got. i
Inside, it’s the sing-a-Iong-a, Iaugh-a-lot-a Billy Bragg Travelling Revue. The tour is his first everwith a band, but initially he reverts to his ‘have guitar, will travel’ persona. Grittin voiced and stridently guitared, the solo intro is the rough 'n’ ready biz. Smoothing the edges, bringing on Cara Tivey on piano and lulsome backing vocals, and with Fred Neil’s big blue ballad ‘Dolphins’, the all-new, all-rounded Bragg sound enters stage right. As ‘Don’t Try This At Home”s sixteen exercises in excellence prove, beneath the gruff and oft-grating sloganeering of his past body of work lurks a songwriting talent of texture and poise. Clock ‘Body Of Water’, and see how the good-egg worthiness is now gee’d on by a fresh smoothness in the tune department.
Not that accessibility has taken precedence over shot-lrom-the~hip lyrical sharpness. ‘A lot of macho middle class wank’ is his dismissal of the Rugby World Cup by way of introducing the anti-soccer thuggery rant ‘The Few’. Despite having real chart hits, the musical pamphleteer who rails against Eurofascism belore
‘Accident Waiting To Happen' is as vociferous as ever.
Then he’s misappropriating Van’s ‘In The Days Before Rock’n’RoIl’, namechecking Brotherhood Of Man, Peters and Lee and Carl Douglas in a sarky lumpy-throat paean to the ‘days before punk’. Such poignancy, such wit, such a hilarious encore version of ‘Groove Is In The Heart’.
Billy Bragg: Britain’s real top light entertainer? Let him tatheryour love children now, boys and girls. (Craig McLean)
7 LIVE DIE ALKRE
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 19 Oct. Amld lts currenttlnanclal plight, Scottish Opera is bravely continuing with lts long-awaited Ring cycle. Following in the style of ‘Das Rheingold’, Richard Jones’s
production is sparse (and, one
suspects, not just because of budgetary constraints) and stripped. Not only sets and decor are taken back to their bare minimum, but expression of movement from the cast is forfeited for what, in Act One especially, resulted in a faltering flow of action. (A resuscitation of the supertitles would have helped; a printed English translation is not much help in a dark theatre).
There is some superb singing.
, Willard White as Wotan is a surefire ? success and Jane Eaglen is stunning in
her first Brunnhilde. Likewise, the American soprano Carol Yahr is a thrilling Sieglinde and, even more so, Sally Burgess as Fricka brings energy and excitement to her role. In the young American John Keyes, Scottish Opera has found a warm and lyrical tenor, ideal for Siegmund. It was disappointing then that such a fine international cast was not matched orchestrally. All too often, Wagner’s
score lacked breathing space. Its sense
of pacing was obscured with conductor John Mauceri setting tempi unable to convince or realise the music’s stature. Ofthe design, most memorable must be the Valkyrie themselves—again thrillineg sung - on high stilts in bright purple, but the costumes remain unfathomable, a reminder of the children’s science-fiction TV series
‘Masters Of The Universe’. But, then, is i
that not what the Ring is all about? (Carol Main)
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The List 25 October— 7 November 199135