ls Adams at fault?

One of America’s foremost operatic composers, John Adams. has followed up his Festival hit Nixon In China with a less grand. more populist work. reports Peter Cudmore.

It has the makings of an uproarious Menippean satire (you can‘t say black comedy): this guy. a known felon. is walking out of this store with a couple of beers for his girl. only he didn't pay. and he walks right into this cop. right'.’ ()1in he‘s up for his third strike. These beers could send him to jail for twenty years. Lucky the cop knows him. Evei'ything's cool, except this fag—hag news-verite reporter hanging around the cop wants to film the bust. stans pushing the guy around and everything goes crazy . . .

John Adams‘ third major stage work. to a libretto by the widely-praised African-American poet June Jordan. is very much rooted in the contemporary California they and director Peter Sellars live in. Described in the

I Was Looking at the Ceiling: rumbles in the concrete jungle

American Record (Juli/e as ‘an E unconventional theatre piece consisting of two dozen discrete songs without interstitial dialogue . . . a musically . superior Hair for the “)(is'. it is also something of a departure from the grand operatic scale of .\'i.t‘on In China. As his career. and that of his fellow- minimalists Philip Glass and Steve Reich. evolve. it becomes clear that Adams was coming from somewhere else. and is heading somewhere else. Curiously. hisjourncy from Nixon to Looking ill The ('eiling is like Glass in reverse. (ilass ended with the full-scale opera :lk/ina/en having begun with Fins/ein ()n The Beach. hardcore minimalism using a small ensemble of singers and musicians at high volume. Adams. on the other band. has always had a weakness for the grand gesture.

the schmaltzy big tune. and Looking At The Ceiling. by all accounts. is his most populist work to date.

June Jordan‘s libretto crackles with the rhythms of the street. connecting three unconnected couples and an attorney. first of all through the chaos of the incident at the liquor store. then under the rubble of the earthquake alluded to in the subtitle ‘Earthquake/romance‘. (The slash transforms ‘Earthquake’ from physical phenomenon to value judgement.) Each character’s narrative is presented in Brechtian manner. You get ‘Leila's Song ()f The Wise Young Woman‘ (all the characters are under 25 years of age. unlike the work's creators). or Dewain's ‘Song About Law School As The Natural Follow-Up To Jail'. but unlike Brecht. Jordan. Adams and Sellars are so busy accentuating the positive that there‘s little by way of dynamic to move things along. Dewain's already a reformed gang leader. Consuelo is already an ‘undocumented' immigrant.

But there‘s love (and no doubt sex) in abundance. and a score that draws heavily on blues. gospel. Motown. rap ‘l.ei|a‘s Song: Alone (Again ()r At Last)‘ is waiting for Barbara Streisand. according to Paul Griffiths in The New Yorker while Peter Sellars' production is mounted in a vivid set painted by top LA graffiti artists such as Anger. Bash. Angst and Panic. (Peter (.‘udmore)

I Hits Looking At The Ceiling And Then I Saw The Sky (Festival) Royal Lyceum. 225 5756. l4—l‘) Aug. [8—80.

Bad Boys Batucada

Hailing from Melbourne, Bad Boys Batucada are a six-man percussion army, souping up traditional Brazilian rhythms with influences from rap, samba-reggae and Afro-Cuban iazz. They’ve just finished mixing their new album at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios near Bath, their visit coinciding with Real World’s annual Recording Week, which meant jamming with ‘an endless variety’ of musicians from around the globe.

The music they play is hot stuff, about 70 per cent traditional and 30 per cent their own distinct style. ‘Heavier, tougher, fatter,’ says Justin Stanford, who was fed up after years of playing in the standard guitar-bass- drums format and wanted to get into something where the drumming was more upfront.

Sometimes, if there’s space in the venue, they’ll augment their music

with displays of capaiera, the only martial art they know of which is performed to music, and at which two of the band members are expert. But, refreshingly, Bad Boys don’t make any great claims for a spiritual dimension to their music.

‘We’ve got a pet god,’ Stanford admits. ‘He’s a Brazilian god called Eshu. It’s something that comes from slavery. When the Africans were taken to Brazil, they weren’t allowed to keep their own gods, they had to worship Catholicism. So they picked a saint for each god, but really all the time they

Wizards from Oz: Bad Boys Batacuda

were worshipping their own gods. And one of those gods was Eshu, which has been equated with the Devil for a long time, but he’s not the Devil, he’s just the god of parties. That’s about as spiritual as we get.

‘Well, we do see audiences in trance- like states. They probably don’t know about it, but they’re going nuts. Everybody dances when we play.’ (Alastair Mabbott)

Bad Boys Batucada (Fringe) Palladium (Venue 26) 556 7353, 10 Aug-3 Sept, 5.30pm, free; Gilded Balloon (Venue 38) 225 2151, 11-13 Aug, 13m, free.


Five musical reasons not to stay in washing your hair for the duration of the first week.

I The Opening Concert The renowned Claudio Abbado returns to the Festival for the first time since l986 to conduct the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester in Mahler's .S'ymp/iony No 9 in D minor and Te beam. The Opening Concert (Festival). Usher Hall. 225 5756, [3 Aug, 8pm. {5.50—1.57}.

I The Jacobin Formerly one of Dvorak's most popular operas. The Jacohin has been neglected in recent times. The revival of this charming and romantic work may see it returned to its original position. The Jacohin

( Festival ). Filinlnogh Festival Theatre. 225 5756. [4. 16 Aug. 7.15pm. [5—0/5 I Luka Bloom Cbristy Moore's wee brother has w iggled out from under that shadow with an exhilarating folk-rock fusion that is all his own. Luka Bloom (Fringe) l’allatlium (V'nue 26) 556 6969. l7xlllg. 9pm. [9.

l Robert Mazurek (luintet A third successive Fringe residency for this hard-driving outfit with roots firmly based in a blues-drenched Chicago hard bop style. Absolute Blues: Jar: Chicago Style (Fringe) Tron Jazz Cellar (Venue 6) 667 W90. 12-26 :llli,’ (not Tue). 8pm. Isl-20. 25. 20 Aug. 2pm. [5. I Delphic Records Song Showcase Delphic singer--songwriters TC. McEwan and Woodstock Taylor host an open platform for newer hopefuls. Delphic Recon/s Song .S'howcase (Fringe). Fringe Clul) ( Venue 2) 226 5/38. l3, 14. 20. 2/. 27. 28. 30, 3/ Aug. ll)..)’()pm..('ree with Fringe ('lul) membership.

I Cafe Graffiti Roots music in a dream palace. This week has Salsa Celtica. Tartan Amoebas. Deaf Heights. Shetland fiddle rock from Rock Salt

and Nails: plus bellydancers. illusionists. tightrope walkers and it‘s stand-up comedy free! Cafe Graffiti (Fringe). ivlanstield Place Church (Venue 90) 55 7 8330. ll Aug—3 Sept.

9. 30pm. prices vary.

The List 11-17 Aug 1995 69