Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Jesus Christ Superstar @ Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Jesus Christ Superstar @ Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Prior to its 1971 Broadway debut, rock-opera  Jesus Christ Superstar began life as a concept album. Forty-five years later, this new production directed by Timothy Sheader at the magical Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre fully embraces the history of the show – for better and for worse.

Visually, the show is a stunner, designer Tom Scutt’s set dominated by a huge cross on the floor and rusting scaffolding housing the visible band. Yet it’s the use of rock and music symbolism that really sets it apart. The actors mostly sing with handheld mics, wires trailing across the floor. Mic stands are used as staffs and spears. Judas eventually, literally, hangs up his mic in suicide. Jesus is often seen carrying an acoustic guitar. And with the crucifixion, he is tied up in mic cables before being raised up on a speaker stand. It’s a suitably visceral climax of throbbing lights, soaring guitars, powerfully expressive choreography (from Drew McOnie) and clever use of glitter.

The production also goes against the colourful hippy vibe of the film version. Here the monochromatic colour scheme depicts a gritty, realistic and cult-like group of disciples, which emphasises the narrative’s attempts to portray the human side of Jesus – there’s no resurrection, leaving us to ponder the true meaning of his death. It’s a dazzling, modern take on the show, even if the score is showing its age.

Yet there are issues with the show itself that this production doesn’t quite overcome. Predominantly, that’s a lack of a clear narrative owing to the lack of dialogue, which explores the bible story in abstract fashion. For some it’s an intriguing concept show, for others it’s a load of 70s hippy nonsense. And whilst we all know Lloyd Webber can write a tune, the through-sung nature of this show leads to short, staccato, recitative-like melodies and overuse of repetition that lacks flow. Alongside the clash of 70s genres, from glam-rock to gospel and folk, it doesn’t quite mesh together cohesively.

Sheader’s production doesn’t help itself. The design and costume scheme might be striking, but it’s too often unclear who specific characters are, making the loose narrative even more difficult to follow. And the singers aim for more of a pop-rock sound than musical theatre, which would sound ideal on a cast recording but their voices don’t translate to the stage. For instance, as Mary, Anoushka Lucas has a beautifully gentle, lilting voice but the role itself is bland and Lucas’ performance lacks distinction on the big stage. By contrast, David Thaxton’s Pilate feels like an overblown pantomime villain.

More so, the production is let down by Declan Bennett’s inadequate diction and power as Jesus. His mumbled rendition of “Gethsemane”, a key moment of the show, is sung whilst he plays guitar in a nod to his previous role in Once – a decision that not only constricts his movement but his emotions too. When he does eventually burst free, he throws down the guitar and kicks the mic stand like a petulant teenager, later thrashing around on the cross as if possessed. His depiction of Jesus has neither the poised calm of Christ, nor the superstar charisma to be a believable leader of this cult.  

Thank Jesus, then, for Judas. Both the show and this production work best when Jesus is forgotten and instead we focus on his betrayer. Really, this is the story of his downfall and conflicting emotions as he wrestles with his (somewhat homoerotic) feelings for Jesus. It’s the deepest, most fascinating role with the best songs and is sung exceptionally by Tyrone Huntley, his vocals successfully blending rich soul and piercing rock with the conviction Lloyd Webber clearly intended. Jesus may have been the saving grace of humanity, but here it’s Judas who’s the real superstar of this spectacular, if inconsistent, production.

3/5

Watch: Jesus Christ Superstar runs at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre until 27th August.


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Allegro @ The Southwark Playhouse

Allegro @ The Southwark Playhouse

Back in 2014, Richard Linklater released his film Boyhood depicting the life of an average Joe from birth onwards. The thing is, Rodgers and Hammerstein actually got there some seventy years earlier. Allegro, the duo's third musical which opened on Broadway in 1947, was originally conceived to depict the whole life of their fictional Joseph Taylor Jr. This proved overambitious, so the narrative scope was scaled back. As a result, the show was considered by some to be a disappointment that didn't quite match its creators' original vision.

Now, the musical is receiving its European premiere and, with the passage of time, there's space to see the show for what it really is: an exploration of selfishness versus selflessness wrapped up in all the typical Rodgers and Hammerstein tropes.

The grand score of wonderful tunes and rich harmonies (in new orchestration from Mark Cumberland) underpins a quaint and intimate story of small town America, as Joseph (a heartwarming performance from Gary Tushaw) studies to become a doctor but is ultimately torn between the high salary and glamorous lifestyle of urban living and a quiet yet grounded life assisting his father in his hometown hospital. The show is at its best as a period piece commenting on the pitfalls of modern America, where turn of the century family values were corrupted by fame and fortune and the desperate fascination with money that the Depression brought.

There are innovations here, too. Whilst the narrative focus may be on Joseph and his immediate family, this is predominantly an ensemble piece, with a Greek chorus used to intimate his inner thoughts. It's a cleverly psychological device that adds depth to what is at times a slightly stagnant plot that lacks drama and tension.

And in this production, director Thom Southerland's use of traverse staging pulls us into the drama. The set design, from Anthony Lamble, consists mainly of ladders and scaffolds that suggests both an industrial, modern age and, literally, social climbing as the actors tower over each other and the audience. Lee Proud's machine-like choreography only adds to this effect.

Strong performances across the ensemble results in a highly polished show. Whilst Tushaw leads the cast with an exemplary performance, Katie Bernstein gives warmth and humour as nurse Emily West and Leah West delivers subtly controlled vocals as Beulah. As a whole, the cast are bold, colourful and full of energy.

Yet it all ends too suddenly, a shortcoming of the ambitious plot that even time cannot quite heal. Joseph may turn his back on the modern age in his pursuit of a more humble lifestyle, but is the grass of home really greener than a fistful of dollar bills and opportunity? We'll never find out.

4/5

Watch: Allegro runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 10th September.

Allegro @ The Southwark Playhouse

Allegro @ The Southwark Playhouse
Photos: Scott Rylander

Friday, 5 August 2016

The Secret Garden @ The Ambassadors Theatre

The Secret Garden @ The Ambassadors Theatre

It's remarkable that it took 10 years for such an inherently British musical to make its way across the Atlantic. Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon's adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 novel hit Broadway in 1991 and subsequently won the Tony award for Best Book of a Musical, but didn't reach the West End until 2001 in a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Producers Matthew and Stephen Chandler, on behalf of The British Theatre Academy, have now brought the show back to the West End in its 'Spring Version' form that reduces the show to 75 minutes and is geared specifically towards children. It remains as typically British as ever, with its quaint storyline, country garden setting, and score imbued with delicate folk melodies. It's sweet without being saccharine, lovely without being twee.

Even with its young audience in mind, there are enough narrative layers to please young and old alike. The story, of a young orphan who stumbles upon a secret garden belonging to her uncle's dead wife, is full of discovery and wonder. Yet it's also a story of loss and grief, of adults being unable to let go of the past and holding children accountable, of childhood innocence overcoming the pain and cynicism of adulthood.

This production, however, does lean a little too heavily on grief, even though it rapidly whips through the early stages of the story. It all feels a bit plain, with an intentionally grey and dismal set that never quite comes alive in the garden scenes, despite some clever use of choreography in the scene changes. The music, too, sounds too sparse, with piano accompaniment alone stifling Simon's lush melodies. Some extra orchestration would add a touch of enriching magic.

With the emphasis on children, it's fitting that the young actors steal the show: in this particular cast, Alana Hinge's precocious Mary Lennox and Sam Procter's argumentative Colin. As a whole the cast is strong, with adult actors Samantha Bingley (Martha) and Matthew Nicholas (Dickon) amusing in lighthearted comedy roles, and Scarlet Smith sounding sweet yet haunting singing Lilly's repeated refrains to "come to my garden".

Elsewhere, though, the children's chorus are barely used, either singing off-stage or simply aimlessly wandering through scenes. Director Rupert Hands seems unsure of what to do with his cast, torn between the youthful focus and appealing to adults with the show's graver themes. Though the cast do a fine job, this secret garden never quite blossoms as it should.

3/5

Watch: The Secret Garden runs at the Ambassadors Theatre until 31st August.

The Secret Garden @ The Ambassadors Theatre

The Secret Garden @ The Ambassadors Theatre

The Secret Garden @ The Ambassadors Theatre

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Ghostbusters (2016) - Paul Feig

Ghostbusters (2016)

Does swapping men for women really make that much of a difference?

Of course not. This new Ghostbusters film is inferior to the original, but having female leads is not inherently the problem. That comes from a poor script, lack of characterisation and missing charm.

Or maybe tired female stereotypes telling puerile jokes is your thing? Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy do their standard schtick as Erin and Abby, two scientists exploring the paranormal and dropping a fart joke within the first fifteen minutes. Then there’s Kate McKinnon as the “quirky” one and Leslie Jones as the token black character who amounts to little more than sassy catchphrases. With such a great opportunity to write some interesting comic characters, the lack of originality is disappointing.

Then again, the film does pay homage to the original. There are plenty of cameos by actors from the 80s films, and instead of the giant marshmallow man there’s a clever twist on the Ghostbusters logo. The plot itself also follows a similar trajectory – it’s familiar yet just about different enough.

If there’s one thing that gets these women more excited than ghosts, though, it’s men. The mere sight of Chris Hemsworth and his bulging muscles as dim receptionist Kevin is enough to make them go all googly-eyed. Cue jokes about women lusting after men and men having little to offer except their bodies. Maybe that’s a twist on the usual gender politics we see in the media, but it doesn’t make for strong characterisation. If anything, Hemsworth steals the film with his comic performance and glint in his eye.

Ultimately, though, this is a film that plays on its own meta-narrative, a film about female hysteria and audience expectations. Just as the public believe the women are frauds for chasing ghosts, most viewers will be looking to pick holes in their performances. They do, of course, come out on top in both narrative layers: the scientists save the day and these actresses prove they are more than capable of holding up an entertaining enough summer action blockbuster. It might not do much in the way of strong writing for women, but perhaps seeing women taking the lead in such a high profile film is empowering enough.

2/5

Watch: Ghostbusters is out now.


Saturday, 16 July 2016

New Pop Roundup

Britney Spears - Make Me

Britney Spears - Make Me

Where's the excitement? Where's the hook? Where's the Britney comeback we've been promised for the best part of a decade? And where the hell are her clothes?




Katy Perry - Rise

Katy Perry - Rise

The queen of uplifting pop anthems, who else could release a song for the Rio Olympics? It's not her best, with its muted beat and lack of a truly brilliant, sing-along chorus, but it's certainly functional. More than that, the video features plenty of footage of London 2012, perhaps the last time this country could be described as "Great" on the world stage.




Snakehips & ZAYN - Cruel

Snakehips & ZAYN - Cruel

Besides a load of remixes, Snakehips are best known for their 2015 track All My Friends. ZAYN you already know, of course. Together, Cruel is all snappy beats, choppy synth samples and smooth vocals - the best of both artists. A surprise release and potentially a surprise hit.




Justice - Safe and Sound

 Justice - Safe and Sound

The French act's first release in five years, Safe and Sound brings the same hard-edged future disco they're known for. That means funk bass, spacey synths and layered vocals. The problem is this track just doesn't go anywhere after the first minute, ultimately lacking impact for all its euphoric sounds. And didn't Daft Punk do this better a couple of years back?




Tinashe - Superlove

Tinashe - Superlove

Superlove is a more uptempo bop than we're used to from Tinashe, but it retains her sexy vocals. With production from The-Dream (Rihanna's Umbrella and Beyoncé's Single Ladies amongst others) and his right-hand man Tricky Stewart, this is the sort of R&B pop-crossover track that will bring Tinashe the chart success she deserves.




Banks - Fuck With Myself

Banks - Fuck With Myself

Dark, sensual music + twisted video = the sexiest track of the year so far.




AlunaGeorge - Mean What I Mean

AlunaGeorge - Mean What I Mean

The London duo are on a roll at the moment in the lead-up to their forthcoming album. Mean What I Mean is standard fare for them, with a slick take on dancehall flavours and infectious syncopated rhythms. That is until you hear...




Lao Ra - Drum Machine

  Lao Ra - Drum Machine

Drum Machine is the follow up to Lao Ra's debut release Jesus Made Me Bad and twists the tropical vibes and dancehall feel so popular at the moment into something edgier but no less enthralling. She's definitely giving AlunaGeorge a run for their money.


Thursday, 7 July 2016

Bat for Lashes - The Bride

Bat for Lashes - The Bride

What with the alter egos, the dark fantastical imagery, and the moody timeless music, Natasha Khan is an artist known for her boundary pushing creative output. Only she could create an album about a jilted bride at the altar.

'The Bride' is a high concept album filled with gloom, though it begins on a hopeful note. Opener I Do is the epitome of innocence, with its angelic vocals ("tomorrow you will ask me if I do") and gentle harp lulling us towards doom. In God's House, the bride is left at the altar as her fiancé tragically dies, signalled by the car crash at the start of Honeymooning Alone. From here, she must learn to cope with solitude, building towards I Will Love Again.

For all intents and purposes, then, it's a break-up album, but one that's wrapped up in cinematic storytelling. But is this really a culmination of concept, poetry and music, or just a pretentious step too far?

In truth, it's somewhere in between. There are some stunning moments here where storytelling and music collide. In God's House perfectly encapsulates the bride's tragedy, haunted by bells and organ, the final calls of "fire, fire" evaporating into smoke. Honeymooning Alone adds a Tarantino flare with its twanging guitars, a not-so-subtle link to a certain other bride. And with Sunday Love there's a real sense of urgency in the driving beats and bass as her world crashes around her.

Yet as the bride goes alone on honeymoon to reconnect with herself, the album dissolves into bleak, minimalist ballads. There remain some highlights: the weirdly tragic psychedelia of Close Encounters; the spoken word incantation of Widow's Peak; the yearning determination of I Will Love Again. But amongst these are piano ballads that fail to spark, either dramatically or musically.

For all its theatricality, 'The Bride' doesn't quite satisfy. With its focus on storytelling, it lacks the musical creativity we've come to expect from Khan; equally the story itself fails to reach a satisfying conclusion. Instead she floats off into the lofty dreamworld of Clouds; but Khan remains more entertaining when she's grounded, earthy and raw.

3/5

Gizzle's Choice:
* Sunday Love
* Close Encounters
* I Will Love Again

Listen: 'The Bride' is out now.




Monday, 4 July 2016

Beyoncé - Formation World Tour @ Wembley Stadium

Beyoncé - Formation World Tour @ Wembley Stadium

“Ok ladies now let’s get in formation”. Beyoncé doesn’t waste any time. Her ‘Formation World Tour’ is nothing short of a call-to-arms and from the opening number she’s gathering her troops, her performance dominated by guttural vocals, militaristic choreography and a series of uniforms rather than costumes. The only comparison is Michael Jackson as she pauses to look out over her crowd of supporters, a single look enough to incite gasps and screams. There’s no denying she’s the biggest popstar on the planet.

In today’s post-Brexit political landscape, it’s refreshing to see a leader with such passion and fiery determination. The titles alone of the opening few tracks illustrate her relationship with her fans: Formation, Irreplaceable, Flawless, Run The World (Girls). At one point she even sits on a throne, such is her confidence to stand before her followers and stir a not-so-quiet revolution – a revolution for equality, her hair braided throughout to emphasise her blackness and much of the show a celebration of black culture alongside tribal outfits, traditional dance moves and even a tribal call in Grown Woman.

It’s the subtext of ‘Lemonade’, then, that’s the focus here. Her latest album, from which many of the songs are taken, may have followed the destruction and rebuilding of marriage, but its visuals told another story of race, politics, and female empowerment. On tour, this ‘visual album’ translates to a huge oversized screen that dominates the stage, rotating and presenting flashes of provocative imagery alongside spoken poetry with cinematic flare. It’s clear that Freedom is the climax of a show that reclaims black culture, performed in a pool of water as seen recently at the BET awards.

And on the theme of power, Beyoncé’s performance is mesmerising throughout, whether showing fierceness and strength through her dancing, snarling her way through the likes of Don’t Hurt Yourself, or gradually working her way through the key changes of Love On Top sung a capella with impeccable vocals.

It’s not all cold, hard aggression though. “The best revenge is your papers,” she sings at the end of Formation holding her hands up in a cash motion, yet whilst you can’t deny she must be swimming in the stuff, she remains humble. She smiles. She’s “so honoured and grateful” as she thanks her fans for their support. And she’s more than happy to show softness and fun, singing older songs like 1+1, Party, End of Time and throwbacks to her days with Destiny’s Child. All the sides of her character are revealed, with the centre of the set essentially the sex section as she sings Yoncé, Drunk In Love, Rocket and Partition. There’s even room for a Prince tribute as Purple Rain is played (and the heavens literally opened for the duration).

It’s not quite a flawless show. There are some dips: the Naughty Boy-penned Running fails to live up to the rest of the set; All Night sags a little; and the derivative Daddy Issues feels out of place. In general the most recent songs don’t quite have the same impact as her big hits without the accompanying film – ‘Lemonade’ is more of a conceptual statement than a series of catchy singles.

But then Beyoncé isn’t just here for a bit of a jolly sing-song. She’s here for change. She’s here to fight. She’s here to showcase her power. Some of her singles may be absent, but when she does sing the big hits she undoubtedly delivers. It all ends typically enough with an emotional performance of Halo, less a love ballad and more a song for a hopeful future. 

More than that, Beyoncé transcends the typical pop concert. This tour is a clear statement to get in formation. Don’t be a Becky.


4/5

Beyoncé - Formation World Tour @ Wembley Stadium

Beyoncé - Formation World Tour @ Wembley Stadium

Beyoncé - Formation World Tour @ Wembley Stadium

Beyoncé - Formation World Tour @ Wembley Stadium

Beyoncé - Formation World Tour @ Wembley Stadium

Beyoncé - Formation World Tour @ Wembley Stadium

Beyoncé - Formation World Tour @ Wembley Stadium

Beyoncé - Formation World Tour @ Wembley Stadium

Friday, 1 July 2016

New Pop Roundup

Blood Orange – Freetown Sound

Blood Orange – Freetown Sound

Some of the most racially provocative albums to hit the mainstream in recent years have come from across the pond, with Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé leading the pack. Over here we have Dev Hynes a.k.a Blood Orange who released an 11 minute track in July 2015 at the height of Black Lives Matter called Do You See My Skin Through TheFlames. That track signposted the way to ‘Freetown Sound’, a meditation on Hynes’ position in society and sense of identity. Much of that comes through the quotes interspersed throughout the album combining the snapshot-in-time feel of Frank Ocean’s ‘Channel Orange’, with the black feminist fire of Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’. Here, though, these voices are frequently and intentionally cut short. There’s a deeper level too, Hynes taking us on a personal journey through his past and present – the album title references Sierra Leone, the birthplace of his father, and the opening lines of Augustine directly reference his parents. The overly long structure, though, means the album is more of a mixtape, a collection of the artist’s thoughts and feelings that perhaps lacks musical focus.

Yet where Kendrick’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ was often fuelled by anger, ‘Freetown Sound’ is a more subtle, sombre lamentation. Fans of Hynes’ work will hear the familiar tropes of 80s pop synths, funk guitars and sorrowful saxophone, here given a beautifully mournful tone under the added weight of the album’s concept. His pop roots shine through on multiple tracks, and there are plenty of cameos from the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen, Nelly Furtado and Debbie Harry. ‘Freetown Sound’, then, cleverly combines pop and politics, for a powerful statement subtly unveiled. It’s the sound of summer at its best and its worst.

4/5

Gizzle’s Choice:
* Augustine
* Best To You
* Better Than Me

Listen: 'Freetown Sound' is out now.




Broods - Conscious

Broods - Conscious

Tove Lo sure does get around, doesn’t she? The Swedish popstar has become the featured vocalist du jour in recent months and shows up here on the best track from Broods’ second album, Freak of Nature. “Freak of Mother Nature’s game, I could blame her for my brain,” she sings alongside Georgia Nott in the yearning chorus. Pair Tove’s raw lyrics with the New Zealand duo’s moody synth-pop and the result is typically heart-breaking. Elsewhere, the album is less inclined to wallow in the misery of their debut, with renewed energy, upbeat tempos, and brighter synths in the likes of Free, We Had Everything and Hold The Line. That’s not to say they’ve lost their angst, but this album edges further into pop territory and loses some emotive power in the process. Lorde co-write Heartlines, though, further proves the duo are best in collaboration.

4/5

Gizzle’s Choice:
* Free
* Heartlines
* Freak of Nature

Listen: 'Conscious's is out now.




Demi Lovato - Body Say

Demi Lovato - Body Say

No, it’s not a banger per se, suggesting that Lovato may have peaked with last year’s Cool for the Summer. Instead, this is a steamy sex jam that’s a banger in a different way…if you get my drift…




Rihanna - Sledgehammer

 Rihanna - Sledgehammer

It’s a Sia-penned track with a badly Photoshopped video. This is hardly a worthy way to follow up ‘Anti’.





Sigur Ros - Óveður

 Sigur Ros - Óveður

This is worth watching for the video alone - its grotesque, otherworldly, disturbing vision is enough to give David Lynch nightmares. The song itself is a gently mournful meditation with distorted drums and the weirdly whirring sonic equivalent of that shot from Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Coupled with the video, it’ll make your stomach churn.




Kiiara – Gold

Kiiara – Gold

Gold is this year’s Royals. Snapping beat. Minimalist production. Dark sex appeal. And an infectious chorus, this time full of chopped up vocals.  




All Tvvins - These 4 Words

All Tvvins - These 4 Words

A new track from the indie-electro band, These 4 Words gives strong summer vibes with its funk bass and glittering synths that make way for a soaring, guitar-heavy chorus (“I’m on top of the world!”). It’s a worthy follow up to the stomping Unbelievable to be sure.




Christine and the Queens – Tilted

 Christine and the queens – Tilted

Christine was one of the major talking points of this year’s Glastonbury festival, with a buoyant and infectious performance. Tilted, her new single, doesn’t quite capture that magic alone – it’s a muted affair with warm synths and a French interlude – but if you missed out on her debut album ‘Chaleur Humaine’ earlier in the year, there’s no better time to listen.




Dizzee Rascal & Calvin Harris - Hype

Dizzee Rascal & Calvin Harris - Hype

Past collaborations between these two include Dance Wiv Me and Holiday, slightly annoying songs that were pretty much the sound of 2008. Now? They’ve release Hype, a very annoying song that could well define the summer of 2016 in the same way Brexit has cataclysmically ruined UK politics. Well done everyone.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Dinosaur Park @ Wilton's Music Hall

Dinosaur Park @ Wilton's Music Hall

One of my earliest memories is seeing Jurassic Park in the cinema at the age of six, head firmly in my mother’s lap as I practically shat myself watching velociraptors terrorise a couple of kids in a kitchen. As horrifying as it was to watch, the film is a piece of PG entertainment that brought families together. And it still does.

That’s what Dinosaur Park, a comedy from Superbolt Theatre, is capitalising on. It might be advertised as “The Jurassic Parody”, but that’s only half true. In reality this is a family drama wrapped up in a love of cinema. Its conceit is a memorial viewing of the film in honour of a dead mother, but when the actual video tape goes awry her two children and ex-husband are forced to act out the film on-stage instead. And, paralleling the relationship between Sam Neil’s Grant and the two kids he’s forced to protect in the film, the (appropriately named) Park family are brought together through communal appreciation of the film.

Gradually the lines between film recreation and reality blur, as we witness flashbacks of family life told through quotations from the film. It’s all rather sweet, but as a family drama it lacks some bite owing to the stereotypical portrayal of characters – the geeky son, the insular daughter tied to her diary, the father fumbling his way through parenthood – and the cartoonish portrayal of the film undermining any drama. It’s also disappointing that (wavering) Bristolian accents have been used seemingly solely for comic effect.

The show is at its best, then, when it’s mimicking the film. Scene changes come with the three-strong cast hilariously depicting the physicality of different dinosaurs; the gentle parodying of the film is delivered in strong comic fashion, with some spot-on perceptions of certain characters and scenes; and the use of props is charmingly done, from a toy helicopter hovering over the stage accompanied by the sound of a glockenspiel playing the theme tune, to a backpack used as a T-Rex head in one of the film’s most iconic moments that’s surprisingly realistic. There’s even room for a feminist reading of the film (all the dinosaurs are female and can’t be tamed) that is especially perceptive. Throw in some 90s cultural jokes and a very entertaining contemporary soundtrack, and Dinosaur Park makes for an enjoyable evening. It might not be as revolutionary as the film it pokes fun at, but it’s a loving recreation with a touching little family drama to boot.

3/5

Watch: Dinosaur Park runs at Wilton’s Musical Hall until 2nd July.

Dinosaur Park @ Wilton's Music Hall
Photos: Geraint Lewis

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Getaway

Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Getaway

A 33 year career in music is nothing to be sniffed at, especially if you can stay consistently relevant in that time span. That is sadly not the case for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

2002's 'By The Way' was probably the band at peak mainstream appeal, but not since 'Californication' have they done anything particularly interesting or novel. That was 17 years ago.

Incidentally, 'Californication' marked the return of on-off guitarist John Frusciante. He left the band for a second time in 2009, before they released their tenth album 'I'm With You' in 2010 with previous collaborator Josh Klinghoffer. Did anyone even listen to 'I'm With You'?

And will anyone listen to 'The Getaway'? The answer is a resounding "no", the moral of the story being the Chilis are nothing without Frusciante. This eleventh album - an apparent return to glory - is so painfully average, they may as well have recorded the literal sound of a dead horse being flogged.

Without Frusciante, it falls on bassist Flea to try and create some interest with funk basslines that vaguely hint of better days; drummer Chad Smith shuffles along nicely enough; and the vocals of Anthony Kiedis are tired and lifeless as he slowly morphs into that puppet of Iggy Pop on the insurance ads.

The result is an album absolutely devoid of thrills. Perhaps the only exception is Go Robot, which attempts to update the Chilis sound: an initial funk groove is gradually accompanied by subtle use of electronics and hand claps, even if - in typical fashion - the lyrics are just a thinly veiled sexual metaphor.

Elsewhere, though, the music doesn't funk, it doesn't rock, it doesn't even pop. It simply limbers along for 13 tracks, the corpse of the 90s dragged out at half speed without a jolt of electricity. Go Robot aside, not one track is noteworthy - for good or for bad.

'The Getaway', then, is not the sound of a band ageing gracefully. The Chilis have committed a worse crime: of being unimaginably, boringly mediocre.

1/5

Gizzle's Choice:
* Go Robot
* Nope, that's it.

Listen: 'The Getaway' is out now, if you really, really must listen.