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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

DVD - What Richard Did - directed by Lenny Abrahamson

Star rating - 8/10

Loosely based on the compelling 2008 novel by Irish writer Kevin Power, which was itself  based on real life events, What Richard Did is a thoughtful, slow paced morality movie, and is all the more impactful for being so. Director Lenny Abrahamson successfully emphasises the privilege and wealth of his subjects, amongst the leafy avenues and large houses of middle class Dublin. 

Richard Karlsen is a gifted all rounder; an academic high achiever and star of the rugby team. His family are loving, supportive, and materially very well set up. He and his friends have just finished sixth form and are spending the summer frolicking at his parents' beach house, and throwing beachside barbeques before they will head off to university. Jack Reynor is excellent at playing Richard, with all his outward confidence but inward insecurities. 

These more negative facets of the golden boy come to the fore through his fledgling romance with Lara (RĂ³isin Murphy). Her ex boyfriend hangs around a little too much for Richard's liking, and tragedy ensues when a fight at a party gets out of hand. The film, after the slow build up to this one event that changes everything forever, is a study in morality and how such a tragic incident affects people from privileged backgrounds.

And special mention must also go to Lars Mikkelsen, who as Richard's father, agonisingly portrays the anguish he goes through as he realises what his son has done. You may recognise him as the smarmy politician from the first series of The Killing. Lars, incidentally, is the brother of Mads Mikkelsen, who himself has had recent notable performances in A Royal Affair and The Hunt. This film has much of the feel of those Scandinavian gems - pared back storytelling and oodles of atmosphere. It is relatively short at just under an hour and a half, and leaves some of the deduction to the audience, which is a welcome departure from many movie offerings.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Gigs - Matthew E White - Sound Control

Star rating 7/10

Matthew E White is a singer with a silky smooth voice, long hair and a long beard, and has created quite a stir since he released his debut album Big Inner last year. Whilst his first live appearance in Manchester this week didn't quite match the slick production qualities of the album, it was impressive all the same.

He and his band hail from Richmond, Virginia, which he claims has a vibe similar to Manchester in terms of its community of musicians. He is rightly proud of the creation of the Spacebomb collective record label, with its aim to promote the rich diversity of music within that community. His own style is hard to define, with his soulful gentle voice producing a fusion of sounds encompassing country, rock, and gospel. His soothing music brings to mind comparisons with artists as wide ranging as Barry White (whom he resembles in name and crooning ability); Neil Young (whose Are You Ready For the Country he covered); and ZZ Top (whom he and his fellow guitarist did an amusing on stage impersonation of during Steady Pace) - so make of him what you will.

My favourite songs, both on the album and live, are One of these days and Big Love, both beautiful, soulful love songs; the latter sounding a touch more psychedelic when performed by the band.  Gone Away is a hauntingly sad song about love, loss, and death, and Brazos is a gorgeous touching number about slavery, even though it may  be a touch too evangelical for some British ears.

The four piece backing band were missing a member, Scott, who had been taken ill on tour, but whose treatment on our wonderful NHS was gratefully received and commented on by White.  He is appreciative of his audience, polite and very talented. And if you were wondering, the E stands for Edgar, if he is telling the truth that is. But he seems like a pretty wholesome good guy, so I am inclined to believe him. 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Gigs - Jamie N Commons - The Deaf Institute

Star rating - 8/10

This Deaf Institute gig was the second Manchester gig for Jamie N Commons (Norman? Nigel? Norris? who knows what the N stands for...) and this young musician with the amazing deep voice just gets better and better. His debut at the Sacred Trinity Church in Salford back in February last year was great, and at aged just 24, he now takes to the stage like a rock star, with shades and open necked shirt to accompany his trademark black felt hat.

Underneath those trapping he seems like a very modest and genuine person, who doesn't stop thanking the audience for coming to see him all night. And he is certainly a class act, with a very accomplished four piece band playing with him. His fabulous blues infused gospel rock, who knows how to define it really, is a mix of styles which is perhaps a reflection of his upbringing in Bristol, Chicago, and London.

He delighted the crowd with Lead Me Home (which has apparently been used on The Walking Dead TV series); and the rockier number Worth Your While. He does love songs too; Caroline had a beautiful  harmonica accompaniment, and Only In the Night featured amazing keyboard playing.

He played great songs from his forthcoming EP Rumble and Sway, the title track of which is a bit of a dancier number; and Wash Me in the Water, with its gospel feel. He politely granted a request from a particularly raucous and unpleasant audience member to play a solo cover of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. He's that kind of guy.

Jamie N Commons is certainly one to watch out for. He has an amazing voice, a great band, and a lovely manner. This was another brilliant night of deep rocking gospel blues. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013