Friday, 10 September 2010


10/9/10, Royal Albert Hall

1 hr 30 mins. Late-night Prom featuring the new incarnation of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, fronted by Arthur Jeffes, son of the original's founder-composer, Simon Jeffes. An 11-piece, joined by Kathryn Tickell (on both Northumbrian small pipes and fiddle), playing lots of Simon Jeffes' tunes and a handful of Arthur's, including a solo piano piece he wrote for his father's memorial service (SJ died in 1997) which he played as an encore.

Most of the old favourites were there, and they haven't lost their catchiness. We had Music for a Found Harmonium, Perpetuum Mobile, Giles Farnaby's Dream, Telephone and Rubber Band, all of which we have on disc at home. Plus some I didn't know like Organum (on which Tickell played the pipes) and Swing the Cat (in which she joined in some very fast fiddle ensemble playing, folk-style, much better in this performance than in a recording we've heard).

The line-up is very different from the original, which only had one ukelele (not three on occasions), didn't have a double bass, did have a trombone etc etc. This had two percussionists and Jeffes on piano, with only one guitarist. It meant the sound had a very different texture, and crucially was poorly served in the hall by the mix (it might have been different for listeners at home...). To begin with we could hardly hear the cello and the other strings, and though it got better it still wasn't entirely satisfactory.

Also Arthur's pieces (with the exception of the piano solo) aren't in the same league as his dad's, while some of the slower pieces had me drifting off (it was late night...)

All the musicians were pretty straight with the exception of one of the violinists who wore black plus-fours or jodhpurs and a black top hat and pranced around centre stage in a very "look at me" kind of way.

I'm glad we went but I think we'll stick to recordings of the original in future.

No comments:

Post a Comment