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Review: Music

RSNO

RSNO

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Michael Tumelty

I DO not think I have heard a better, more powerful, probing, revealing and emotionally overwhelming Mahler Eight than that with which Peter Oundjian, the RSNO, eight of the best-matched soloists it has been my pleasure to hear, and an army of choristers brought the RSNO's season to a comprehensively glorious close on Saturday night.

And I hope I was the only clot in the full house who had embarrassingly forgotten the tissues and could do nothing about the tears, unleashed through this irresistibly cathartic RSNO performance, that ran down my cheeks.

That was one major feature about Oundjian's interpretation. It wasn't riding the emotions; there was no neck-wringing of the music, and Mahler's Eighth Symphony is a minefield for an indulgent conductor of the Bernstein species.

This was intelligently structured; and the emotional intensity of the performance came from deep within that structure, its tensions and its releases. Oundjian's Mahler Eight was a real symphony, and a homogeneous vision of that symphony too, producing a unity that worked at every level, right through the music.

The choruses, featuring all or part of the RSNO Chorus, Junior Chorus, City of Glasgow, RCS and Edinburgh Festival Choruses, dealt as effectively with the hushed intimacies as with the majestic opening chorus.

And I must name those eight awesome, mind-blowing and downright wonderful soloists who stopped my heart with the beauty and perceptiveness of their singing, individually and in ensemble: three sopranos, Erin Wall, Elizabeth Llewellyn and Sarah Tynan; two mezzos, Caitlin Hulcup and Susan Platts; one blazing helden-tenor, Simon O'Neill, one baritone, Luthando Qave, and bass baritone Jonathan Lemalu. An unforgettable night.

The Eagles

SSE Hydro, Glasgow

Stuart Morrison

THIS was billed as History Of The Eagles and it did, pretty much, what it said on the tin.

Following an announcement from the band that we should all switch off all electronic devices, especially if they could take photographs, Glen Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Timothy B Schmit, opened with an acoustic set in front of the curtain, featuring early songs such as Whatever Happened To Saturday Night.

Now, it's fair to say that the Hydro is not the place for acoustic sets, the sound wafting off into the rafters, as it did.

However, Peaceful Easy Feeling and especially, Witchy Woman, both overcame the acoustic, the latter benefiting from Joe Walsh's arrival on stage.

Things improved when the curtain went up and they started making some noise. The history angle was underlined by occasional video clips of Frey or Henley explaining the origins of particular songs, but Glen Frey, in particular, was the master of ceremonies, with some nice introductions.

"I'd like to dedicate this next song to my first wife... so this is for Plaintiff," he said, before launching into Lyin' Eyes. The first part of this 27-song set was littered with hits. Already Gone, Best Of My Love and One Of These Nights, with an exceptional rendition of Take It To The Limit bringing part one to a close.

Part two was patchy, with some lighter numbers appearing to pad out a set list that really didn't need padding out. We did get Joe Walsh's hit, Life's Been Good, which was almost worth the admission alone, before Life In The Fast Lane and Hotel California brought the thing to a truly triumphant conclusion.

Camera Obscura

O2 ABC, Glasgow

Jonathan Geddes

WHEN Camera Obscura arrived on stage, singer Tracyanne Campbell made sure to mention the crowd being "merry".

Ironically, the evening's atmosphere promptly took time to get going, a strange state of affairs given this was the group's first home-coming gig in several years.

There was a flat feeling that pervaded the first half of the set, a shame given that musically the band, aided by extra musicians, sounded as crisp as ever, while Campbell's vocal retains that bittersweet coating that provides their songs with extra bite.

Yet, aside from a sprightly version of Let's Get Out Of This Country, that full sound was locked in a mellow, one-paced groove.

If their melancholic pop has consistently proved enjoyable on record, it was the more upfront moments that helped provide some momentum live - the twangy guitar of Teenager, a perky, poppy French Navy and the big, rumbling drums that pushed along If Looks Could Kill.

Those moments were the band at their most muscular, and they helped compensate for the rather clinical manner other tracks were dispensed with, from the overly sedate Forests And Sands to Desire Lines, the title track of last year's fifth album, but here so fragile it simply drifted away.

The band have always possessed a downhearted style, but there seemed a detachment from the crowd that meant the performance lacked buzz.

That kick arrived, however, on a home stretch that mixed more danceable favourites like Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken and a virulent take on Razzle Dazzle Rose with a lovely, tender Books Written For Girls. The combination ensured suitable merriment for all at the last.

Christine Tobin

Tolbooth, Stirling

Keith Bruce

IN AN era of rather too many female vocalists claiming to be jazz singers when they lack the most basic improvising skills, Christine Tobin is the genuine article, and her mastery of the lost art of scat singing, tastefully deployed throughout a set drawn mostly from her recent album of Leonard Cohen songs, A Thousand Kisses Deep, proves the point beyond argument.

She is the lead instrument in a trio with guitarist Phil Robson and the double bass of Dave Whitford, in which all take eloquent solos.

Probably to her financial disadvantage, but all the more convincing in practice, Tobin is the least showbizzy of performers. So the Cohen songs cover the gamut of his career rather than the better-known earlier ones, and every number comes with information about its source album, the date of its first release and sometimes the singer's relationship with it.

These arrangements - some, like set-closer Suzanne, quite radical - are a labour of love, and it shows in the performances. Eighties classic Everybody Knows comes with a swinging guitar solo from Robson, while Whitford excels on Hey That's No Way To Say Goodbye and an improvised intro to Tower Of Song, all three revealed as just as eligible for inclusion in the jazz standard repertoire as the two from that book, You Go To My Head and Cry Me A River, that Tobin performs amid the veteran Canadian's songs.

To prove that it is a trick these musicians can apply to other songwriters, the opener and the encore came from Joni Mitchell, because she was Cohen's one-time lover, and Carole King, because Tapestry is another of the riches in Tobin's jazz life.

Brian Kellock Trio

Glasgow Art Club

Rob Adams

STANDING-room-only concerts are always a good sign, especially when the audience has turned up to hear a home-produced musician whose talents are deserving of, and to some degree have found, international acclaim, as was the case with this latest of Bridge Music's Jazz Thursdays series.

Brian Kellock's name is spoken in certain circles with awe, and the pianist consistently showed why this would be the case with an inventive approach that - as has long been his wont - drew on whole eras of jazz history while fashioning spontaneous phrases and harmonic developments that amounted to new creations in every chorus.

His repertoire here contained many familiar as well as some more neglected items, but with his double bass and drums team, Kenny Ellis and Alyn Cosker in alert, simpatico mode, Kellock made everyone of them an adventure.

Even a jazz jam standard such as C Jam Blues blossomed afresh in Kellock's extemporising, and if his solo piano interlude on Taking A Chance On Love harked back to the Willie "The Lion" Smith stride school of classic jazz piano, he was soon carrying that spirit forward into something altogether more contemporary and daring.

Kellock once said he wasn't a composer, which is why he favours the Great American Songbook, but his introduction to My Romance was a sufficiently original variation of and route into the actual melody as to count as his own work.

Affecting though his playing on such ballads undoubtedly is, though, it's often Kellock's sheer exuberance that's most endearing, and with his gleeful steam engine-like development of Sister Sadie he really didn't need to apologise to those without seats.

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