Category Archives: Event Review

Sister Sledge
19 May, 2017

Sister Sledge

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Concert Review, Sister Sledge in Kaufleuten

Zurich May 19, 2017

Author Nualan O’Brien

Top Five Facts on Sister Sledge

  • Sister Sledge was a key contributor to the 70’s / 80’s Disco era with dance-floor hits including: “We are Family,” “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” and “Frankie”.
  • The grammy-award-winners have performed for the Pope in 2015; and at the White House for former US President, and First Lady Bill and Hillary Clinton.
  • Yes, they are indeed sisters. They were originally four sisters in the group: Debbie, Joni, Kim and Kathy Sledge.
  • Currently two of the four are on tour: Kim and Debbie Sledge. They are joined by a third singer.
  • One of the four sisters, Joni Sledge sadly died this year (2017) aged 60. She is survived by her son, Thaddeus Everett Whyte IV, who is also on tour.

Friends often ask: why do you love live music so much? Apart from my love of music, it is my love of surprise. Surprises I like of course. And I have never, ever seen so many grown men groove like they did to these ladies. There was more than one man thinking: He’s the Greatest Dancer* And if there had been a competition to choose the best man-dance, it would have been a hard call.

If you were to ask most women what they would like from their partners, after the predictable: “If only he would do more housework,” it would probably be: “I wish he would go dancing more.” Interestingly, the men who were Lost in Music* were a mixed bag: some were early thirties, others in their forties and one or two mega-groovers were definitely of retirement age.

In fact, for some gentlemen, simply grooving to the tunes was not enough, several jumped on stage at the end to take selfies with the sisters.

In terms of the music, Sister Sledge have written catchy heart-warming tunes that endure. Kaufleuten is a big venue and it was “ausverkauft” (sold out).

Worth mentioning is the impressive musicians they had on tour: two great guitarists and some guy playing an instrument that could only be described as: “an electric oboe on speed”.

Sister Sledge have great energy and stage presence. And this vitality is all the more impressive, as they sadly lost a sister this year. Debbie Sledge dedicated one song to the late Joni, describing her as “all love.” Joni’s son, Thaddeus the Fourth, sang the ballad. It was a beautiful thing to watch – the sisters and him – concentrate their feelings for their late sister Joni, in the medium she loved so much – music.

Joni, May she Rest in Peace.

*All of these are Sister Sledge songs. Listen on Youtube:

Useful Links:
Wikipedia:

Link:  Sister Sledge

 

Concert Promoter: All Blues Konzert AG

Link: www.allblues.ch

Concert Venue:  Kaufleuten

Link: www.kaufleuten.ch

 

 

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Ennio Morricone Concert Review 2017

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Ennio Morricone Concert Review: Sunday, 5th March, 2017, Hallenstadion Zürich

60 Years of Music Tour

Author Nualan O’Brien

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Even if the multi-award winning 88-year old Italian composer walks at a slightly slower pace, Morricone continues to create music that affects us deeply. He is best-known for the film scores of the Mission, the Good the Bad and the Ugly, and most recently, the Hateful Eight. He has been dubbed: “the Mozart of the film-music industry.” In 2006, he was awarded an honorary Oscar for his “multifaceted contribution to film music.”

Morricone’s 2014 concert in Zurich had a dramatic ending

“As he concluded the last set to a standing ovation, Morricone stumbled from his podium on his way to exit the stage. Four colleagues rushed to help him. He rose, not quickly but carefully (…) A few minutes later he came back to conduct an encore of “Ecstasy of Gold” from the Good, the Bad and the Ugly – also met with a standing ovation. The final piece was from the Mission – another standing ovation. “Way to go, Mr Morricone,” I thought. It’s not how often we fall, but how often we pick ourselves up that matters.”

And pick himself up he did – not just physically. Since then, after six Oscar nominations for “Best Original Film Score”, in 2016, he finally won his first Oscar for “the Hateful Eight”.

After a concert I usually write the review the following day. But with Morricone, I could not. There was a question swirling around in my head that I could not answer. “What is it about his music that creates this powerful connection with the listener?” For several days, I listened to his music, and even compared it to other successful film-score creators, including Hans Zimmer, who wrote the Gladiators soundtrack.

I also wondered why Morricone evokes such an emotional response from his audience. And when you see him in person, there is something about his frail frame that increases your awe. For sure, has achieved a great deal, he has written some beautiful music, and has dedicated his life to his art. But many people have done that. But yet, we don’t feel the admiration towards them that we do to him.

So after several days of swirling thoughts, here is my list of…

Why Morricone’s music stirs us at a deep level?

Reason 1: His ability to show a palette of emotions and moods through sound.

Many musicians specialise in a particular genre: mystical, haunting or romantic. Artists can create music that is emotional, poppy, victorious, or melodies that are deeply melancholic or evocative. Morricone, on the other hand creates a range and depth of music that is not seen in many other artists. His music can be scary (the Hateful Eight). He can also create romantic music (Cinema Paradiso), moving, dramatic music (the Mission) and music that can almost send us into sensory- overload (the Ecstasy of Gold).

Reason 2: The range and balance of instruments.
While I confess to having no classical musical training, other that a brief flirtation with the piano (apparently one had to practice to be good), and singing in a few school operas (the choir that is, no prestigious solos for me). He uses a wide range of instruments: grand piano, electric piano, pan-pipes, drums, oboes, trumpets, harp, violin, flute, male and female voices. No instrument, or voice seems to dominate; no one voice seems to overwhelm, no one instrument is over-used. All is in balance. I hear a flautist’s solo and think: “Ah I haven’t hear the little flute for a while, how sweet the sound.”

Reason 3: His choice of solo singers.
This year, Susanne Rigacci accompanied him. She has a remarkable voice, great stage presence and an Italian-ness that blends well with his dramatic music. Try listening to this and see if you can even remember what you had planned to do next.

Susanne Rigacci accompanying the Ecstasy of Gold (from the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly).

Reason 4: His ordinariness.
Yes, really. And why is that? His 88 years-young body that walks slowly, carefully to the stage. No Freddy Mercury-style showmanship here. He opens up his music score without flourish. He could be a man opening a novel on the tram. There is something ordinary about his manner. It could be my father up there on stage. It could be yours.

His under-stated on-stage performance is refreshing. There are no special effects. Thus the spotlight stays on the musicians and singers. He does not draw attention to himself – save to bow when the audience offers a Standing Ovation. And his bow is not the bow of a glory-hog, it is a bow of servitude and gratitude.

While I cannot re-create the concert for you, watch him here receive his Oscar in 2016 for “best original film score”. He takes a piece of paper, which looks like it was torn from a school copybook. His speech is brief and to the point, and in his native Italian.

Morricone’s 2016 Oscar acceptance speech:

Highlights of the 2017 Show

I must admit that I am always nervous going to see the same artist twice. However, it was a completely different show. And did the audience like him this time? Three standing ovations and a teary-eyed journalist – that is all you need to know.

The Mission: Gabriel’s Oboe

The Hateful 8

My Personal Favourite

Cinema Paradiso: “The Love Theme”. At one point, I owned the CD of this film score.

One of the things that I most admire in this world, are those folk who could legitimately retire, and who still take their career seriously and continue to create. To me, there is nothing sadder than a talented “older” person who appears to think it is time to sit back, eat more cake and slowly decay while letting the “young ones” have their time. And if there is a role model to never retire, or at least to never stop creating and doing what we love, it is Ennio Morricone.

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Art on Ice 2017 – Expect the Unexpected

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Author Nualan O’Brien

Review of Art on Ice in Zurich 3-5 February,2017

This is the only show in Zurich I have seen three times. It is where figure ice-skating meets a pop concert. The skaters skate – at times fluid – at times robotic. And the musicians perform – sometimes on the stage at the top of the ice rink, sometimes on a small mobile stage on the ice. Creative visuals light up the concert hall. A contortionist can appear from a rope in the ceiling, climbing like an acrobatic cat to the floor. Sinewy dancers clamber to get out of a smoky cage, and a male skater can merrily leapfrog over another crouched male skater.

At times, the singers move on the ice, at other times, the skaters appear to take to the stage. (Or else new dancers emerge from the wings). Either way, it makes it a show to remember. But before I tell you the other reasons I like the show, let me explain…

Art on Ice 3-5 February, 2017

What is Art on Ice?

Art on Ice is a Swiss Ice Skating Show that tours Zurich, Lausanne and Davos. Each year, current and former Olympic and World champion perform spins, twists and throws – supported by globally-recognised musicians. While the skaters can have performed in the show before, the musicians are always different.

This year’s musicians were:

Chaka Chan, the Chicago-born 10-time Grammy award-winner who was made famous with massive hits like: “I’m Every Woman, ”I feel for you.” The popular 63-year-old soul singer has worked with music legends Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Prince and David Bowie.

The über-cool British singer-songwriter James Morrison. The 31-year-old, guitar-player has enjoyed success with songs including: “You Give me Something”, “You Make it Real”, and “Wonderful World”. By coincidence he has also collaborated with former Art on Ice performers, the Canadian Nelly Furtado (with “Broken Strings”). And the British Jessie J (with “Up”). Watch him on Youtube:

The Zurich Chamber Orchestra. While the words “chamber orchestra“ do not necessarily conjure up images of funk and fun, this orchestra did an impressive job of creating both moving and memorable music that might just make a visit to the Zurich Chamber Orchestra on my To Do list for 2017. At times, Dany Lo, a red-headed solo violinist, appeared on the main stage.

Other reasons to like Art on Ice:
The element of danger. What you get to experience in a live show and cannot get to see on TV, is those moments when the skaters show a faint wobble on a turn, or a male skater seems to almost miss a catch of his female partner. And far from taking from a performance, this level of realness adds an edge to the performance, and has you clutching your seat.

The stadium is dark, the spotlight follows the skaters flawlessly, even when the skaters are travelling at high speed.

The skaters seem to have more fun on the ice than they do when competing. This is infectious for the audience.

Highlights of 2017

The outfits rocked. Gold star for the wardrobe co-ordinator this year. The skaters were wearing jeans and t-shirts, black and white (simple, but visually impressive, they did not look like waiters, but elegant dancers flowing on the ice). At one point the female dancers were wearing fun American–style colourful mini-dresses. (In fact one female skater had such a funky red mini dresses with denim jacket, I was wondering where they bought it!) During a Chaka Chan song, a troupe of female skaters all wore sexy vixen outfits (and the outfits managed to be sexy, not slutty). I was glad to see a move beyond the predictable skin-tight spangled tops for the men and the floaty skirts for the ladies.

The unexpected. This year the show began with a robot travelling on ice. In the background, a ball of fire like a grapefruit explodes on the stage at the top of the ice rink. All the while, an invisible narrator tells a story about discovering ourselves by looking in a mirror. Not a dancer to be seen. Clever.

Chaka Khan singing “Gold Finger,” accompanied by a suited James Bond male solo skater. She has the kind of golden voice that fills a stadium with ease.

More about the Skaters

Figure skating pairs that appeared in the show included the current Olympic champions, the American Meryl Davis & Charlie White. Not only do these two make the skating look effortless – gliding like silk across the ice, they even manage to smile while doing incredibly challenging moves.
MerylDavis_CharlieWhite

Other skating pairs were the Russian Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov (they won silver at the 2014 Olympics – with Ksenia also winning gold in the team event). Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot also skated this year. (They won bronze in the 2016 World championships).

The cast included two accomplished Swiss skaters: both have appeared in Art on Ice before.

Stéphane Lambiel, who was born in Martigny. He is a two-time former World Champion (2005 and 2006). He also won a silver in the 2006 Olympics. He is known for his spins that seem to twirl him into infinity. He is now officially retired but also coaches. More on him on Wikipedia.

Stephane_Lambiel

Sarah Meier, from Bülach in Canton Zürich. She is the female solo 2011 European Champion. She retired in 2015, but came back from retirement for this show.

Sarah Meier at Art on Ice 2014, Switzerland

Other solo female skaters included: the Moscow-born Anna Pogorilaya. She is only 18 and has already won bronze in the European championships in both 2015 and 2016. It seems she will have a long career ahead of her. The American Ashley Wagner,  a silver medalist in the 2016 World Championships, also skated.

Other male solo skaters included the lively Daisuke Takahashi, the 2010 World champion from Japan.

Other Facts about Art on Ice:

• In 2017, 80,000 people will have seen this show live.

• Previous year’s highlights can be seen on the SRF site here. The popular Viola Tami is the TV host for the show. The 2017 highlights are due to be on www.srf.ch shortly.
 

Official Site: www.artonice.com

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Ecouter107-Simone

Lisa Simone, Jazz No Jazz festival, Zurich 2015

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  • Lisa Simone, former broadway actress and now singer-songwriter, daughter of the late Nina Simone performed in Zurich as part of the Jazz No Jazz Festival on 31, October 2015.
  • She lives in France with her husband and daughter.
  • Her most recent album: “All is Well”. Buy it here.

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The Lisa Simone concert at the Jazz No Jazz Festival, was not just a concert, it was a story: the story of a woman coming to peace with the relationship with her mother.

Being Irish, this is a topic very close to my heart. When a country is economically poor, they find other ways to create riches. I grew up with stories, spun like tapestries of words conjuring images of colour, joy and tragedy. In the past, story tellers  were quite well off, respected and admired. Gifted poets wrote poems for kings and were paid handsomely.

It is impossible to speak about Lisa Simone without mentioning her rather famous mother, Nina Simone. Nina Simone was not just an accomplished singer and pianist, but a civil rights activists. Nina began playing the piano at four years of age, and her talent was so palpable that her community raised the funds to send her to Juilliard, the exclusive performing arts school in New York. One of her iconic songs: “My Baby Just Cares for Me” is one of my all time favourites.

Lisa Simone’s concert began with acoustics. She is flanked by a Sengalese guitarist, Irvay Shan, who, as well as being a compelling musician, is quite the stage adornment with his boiler suit orange shirt and dreadlocks. Reggie Washington from New York was on bass, and and Sonny Troupe was on drums. After several minutes Lisa joined the stage. Her first song was melodious, sorrowful, ‘The Child in Me’: “Every time you leave, the tears would roll down my cheeks. You were my life, and every time you left a part of me died”.

Listen to her perform this song in Paris here:

The tone was probably not matching that of the audience, who were ready for a party on Hallow’een night. But after the first two songs, she knew how to get the party started.

She sang some of her own songs, “Autumn Leaves”, about her walking her dogs the day she heard her mother died. She also sang one one of her mothers big hits, “Ain’t got no life”.

Other covers include one from the 60’s band, the Mommas and Poppas

How would one describe her? She has a great voice, a strong stage presence and a sort of Janet Jackson look about her. She is a a good mover and sports a figure who likes to wear leather (and look good in it). When I asked my husband how old he thought she was, he said 30. Well that is impressive for a 53 year old. At one point in the concert, she disappeared from stage, telling us we were “Looking in the wrong direction”. I looked around expecting to see her on the upper viewing gallery. She surprised us all, when she joined the audience and stopped to shake hands, even handing over the mike at one point and even hugging another enthusiastic fan.

Why did I choose this concert? Not because I really knew Lisa’s music, but curiosity as I admired her mother. She must be good, I thought, to be able to get gigs that go beyond the legacy of her mother.

I was not so polite as to close my ears when I heard others discuss the same topic. One lady said to her friends: ”She must have had the perfect place to learn, surrounded by all that music and that brilliance”. Her friend, who was a doctor disagreed. He was the son of a famous doctor, and he had had a life of constant comparison, feeling he had to work much harder to be he recognised. I wondered where the truth lay.

One might easily think that Lisa Simone grew up with her mother cradling her lovingly on her knee, showing her how to play the piano and encouraging her. Or that she has lived a life of privilege living off the royalties of her mother’s music. This seems far from the truth. Lisa’s youth was peripatetic, abusive and no doubt, excruciatingly lonely. Her mother was away a lot, and Lisa spent long spells with governesses and relatives. Lisa ran away from home at 14 after a severe beating. She then went to live with her father, Andy Shroud, Nina’s first husband and former manager.

Nina Simone, who allegedly suffered from bi-polar depression was a gifted but troubled soul. She did not include her daughter in her will, and and a lengthy legal battle ensued over her valuable legacy.

The concert ended with her song: “I Feel Free”, which I thought was very touching, and right. “Prayer is a powerful thing and when you pray you have to have faith (….) The Goddess of justice has smiled upon in the name of God and my mother. (…) Those who tried to deny me my rightful legacy on me, in the name of the mother(… ).. I am finally free.

And free Lisa Simone she is. Free from her past, free from the name that is both a blessing and a curse, but she is free to blossom, sing, dance and shine.

(C) Image copyright Eve Magazine France (evmag.fr)

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Elton John solo ZRH

Elton John Zurich Concert Review, December 3, 2014

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Zurich Hallenstadion, Wednesday, December 3,  2014.

Author Nualan O’Brien

Photos: K.Thomopoulos (c) Zurich-Events.com

Elton John: The Facts

  • Over 300 million record sales
  • 50 plus top 40 hits, including seven number 1 US albums
  • He is one of the best-selling musicians in the world

Elton John: The Performer


The stage is black, darkened. The arena is full and silent. We wait. A light shines on Elton John. The ebony yamaha glistens. His sparkly blue suit reflects the stage lights. All at once, his sonorous, powerful voice fills the large arena. His deft fingers caress the keys of his piano with the ease and familiarity of a man for whom piano playing is like walking for most of us. In fact, he has been playing the piano since he was three years of age.

This artist has been in show biz for 46 years, longer than most of the audience has been alive I noticed. The audience ranged from teenagers, twenty somethings, to fifty somethings. I must confess to being ‘too lost in music’ to remember the first actual song he played. I just know I enjoyed it. Very much.

‘Good Evening Zurich’ he says to the audience in his very British accent, telling us the first four songs were from his Yellow Brick Road album, released 40 years ago in 1974. Songs included ‘Goodbye Norma Jean’ and ‘Believe’. “Believe” he tell us, is his favourite song as its subject is love. ‘We need more love in the world,’ he declares. The audience claps.

Elton John ZRHHe is a generous artist, thanking his band members individually, acknowledging his lyricists and often naming other artists when introducing songs. Artists he has worked with include: Eminem, Gary Barlow, George Michael and Tim Rice.

Elton John engages well with the audience, explaining the philosophy behind his songs. In the Circle of Life, from the Lion King, his favourite line is: “You should never take more than you give.”

He tells us he still loves to tour. But he does not need to tell us this, as it is clear from the expression on his face. This love of performing is also evident in the faces of his band members. They say that youth is wasted on the young, and I find it a beautiful thing when older people are so youthful that they make the young in awe of them.

The Challenges the Artist Faced in his Life


Elton John has had challenges in his life. He lost friends, including Freddie Mercury to AIDS. Let’s not forget the vitriol with which homosexuals have been treated with. He admitted to being bisexual in the 1970’s and then to being gay in the 80’s. In 1952, Alan Turing, the British mathematician who cracked the Nazi Enigma code, which was instrumental in the Allies defeating Hitler in World War 2 was prosecuted for engaging in ‘criminal homosexual’ behaviour. That was only 20 years prior to Elton John saying he was bisexual.

Songs in the Zurich repertoire included:

  • Sorry seems to be the hardest word
  • Daniel
  • Something in the Air Tonight
  • I’m Still Standing
  • Something in the Way you Look tonight
  • Circle of Life (Lion King)
  • Believe
  • The One
  • What Can I do to Make You Love Me?
  • Candle in the Wind

The man is 67 and yet his voice and presence seems to be even better than when he was younger. He tells the audience he is happier now, he is “grateful for the love of his partner of 21 years and his two beautiful children”, whom they had with a surrogate mother.

This is a man who is ‘content dans son peau’ as the French say, ‘happy in his own skin’. He thanked the audience for the love they showed him. “When I go home after a concert, I cannot sleep as I am so excited,” he shared with us.

And even the unborn baby in my belly seemed to already be a fan, insisting I get up and dance to some of the songs, something I have not done much of recently seeing as I am due in three weeks.
Elton John 2 ZRH

The Best Memory from Elton John’s Concert in Zurich


What did I like most about this concert? This concert was all about the raw music. Elton John’s music has enduring and classic appeal. He does not need sinewy dancers, or to be hoisted up on platforms by ropes, or any other paraphernalia to create a memorable show. Why? His music is enough. The quality of the his naked voice, accompanied by his skilful piano playing and band are enough to move us, to make us want to dance and to make us feel alive.

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