Saturday, 23 March 2019

REVIEW: Gala Concert: Closing of the Sounds Like This Festival - The Venue, Leeds College Of Music, Leeds.

Nestled in the centre of Leeds, on the doorstep of the Northern Ballet, and in the back garden of Leeds Playhouse, lies Leeds College of Music (LCoM), in a collection of modern buildings, all built around the College’s student union, which is where tonight's concert was, at The Venue. I went in to the hall, not really knowing what to expect, but after a brief sift through the excellent programme, I had a much better idea.

At roughly 7:30pm, the lights dimmed, and a voice-over announced that we were live streaming across the world! This LCoM Gala Evening was the closing ceremony of the ‘Sounds Like THIS’ Festival.

The show featured a multitude of different ensembles, and bands, solo artists and an excellent video game inspired composition that was backed by an exciting light show and video collaboration.
We began with a large group of musicians on the stage, who burst into a lively piece in an array of time signatures, with solo sections featuring a bass clarinet and drums. We then moved on to a Korean singer /songwriter, singing in her native tongue, along to a beautiful piano accompaniment. We were treated to a solo flute piece, called ‘And The Wind Whispered’ by Lebanese composer, Wissam Boustany, which told a thrilling story of a journey round the world from the deserts of Arabia, to the mountains of Peru, showing all kinds of techniques, such as overtones and beatboxing. The concert continued with a three piece band, Greyscale, who played a calming tune called ‘Scared To Be Lonely’; then came the band, Tamzene, who performed a brand new RnB track, ‘Glow’ followed by another band Fluid Puzzle, who played an exciting 'Riot'.  A jazz-esque piece by guitarist Lewis Downs called ‘Swiss Cheese’ came after yet another lengthy awkward pause between acts, and as the whole stage was stripped, and reset for the different bands, we reached the final act of the first half, Elements, a band brought together by the LCoM Saturday Music School who went on to perform the 1970’s Funk Classic, ‘September’ by Earth, Wind And Fire. This was a great way to end the half as the performance was full of energy and was excellently performed by the young group of budding musicians.

A 20 minute interval, which was actually a 30 minute interval, seemed to take forever, and sadly, once we started again, the audience of this sold out hall, was drastically down in numbers. One can only assume that the supporters of an act in the first half only came to see them, and not support the whole event, which is a crying shame, as there was some incredible music still to come.

We started with a brilliant rendition of Leo Brouwers ‘El Decameron Negro’ for Spanish Guitar, performed by Jacob Bearman, then were treated to a thrilling electronic composition, called 'Omega Drive', by H-Mister, who created a retro video game sound track to a video clip and also produced an exciting light show involving smoke and a disco ball.

The band Yaatri were on stage just a few minutes afterwards to perform LCoM student Composer Liam Narain DeTar and Bethany Herrington’s piece, 'Pick It Up', which combined Indian rhythms with the emotive quality of Scandinavian Jazz. Robyn Saunders then came back to the stage, to perform 'Cadenza 1', from Roger Vigulf’s 18 Cadenza’s for Clarinet and Electronics, this particular piece involved a delay pedal, and some great time keeping from Robyn (who also featured in the first half), as she kept perfectly in time with her self using the delay pedal at points like a loop station, which takes a lot of skill. This was one of the highlights of the evening. Bravo Robyn. Next we saw a duo, Tiger By The Tail, who were dressed impressively, with a light-up cape/wing outfit, and saw Callum Lewis armed with a computer and a drum machine. The duo played their Club style piece, ‘Another Man’ which lifted the audience into an upbeat feel for the end of the concert. Their performance ended and we waited a few minutes, while the next band set up. In these frequent changeovers I wished that there was a compere for the evening to mask the awkward silences and smatterings of audience chatter between acts, as it just felt like the whole evening was missing something. Finally, the next band were set.

WHOA. They’ve turned the volume up by 50 percent. That caught us all off guard. This lively metal band burst into action with an eardrum destroying rendition of the bands 2019 single, ‘Pillara’. My eyes drifted around the auditorium while this group were performing, and I counted 30 people with their hands over their ears, as this band were so excruciatingly loud. This band were hard to appreciate as all I could find myself thinking was Jeez, I wish I had my ear plugs. And I hope that the 3 lads on stage all had some ear protection. The final act of the evening was a band called Waterside, who played their track, ‘On the floor’. Sadly, they had not turned the amplifiers back down to an acceptable volume, so this band were also really quite loud, and once again, there were people shielding their ears. Luckily, the music they played was not as aggressive and was a brilliant cross between folk and rock, with a violin leading the band, the player of which, Florence Rutherfoord-Jones, was also the lead singer. The band had a breakdown section where a band member took it upon herself to thank the college, the festival and sponsors for the opportunity to perform and be part of the festival.

This closed the festival, and brought to an end, the concert. This leaves me just to say after a mostly enjoyable evening of music, I would like to thank Dr. Paul Abbott, the Sounds Like THIS Festival director, Gerry Godley, the LCoM Principal, and the whole background team at Leeds College of Music for putting this event on, and I hope the concert was the success you intended.

Reviewer - Simon Oliver
on - 22/3/19

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