Thursday 23 March 2017

Reviews: Peter Kay: The O2, Dublin

Peter Kay The O2, Dublin John Meagher Glasvegas Academy, Dublin Ed Power Hugh Tinney National Concert Hall, Dublin Pat O'Kelly

Peter Kay is a big man with big stats. He was the first comedian anywhere to shift one million tickets for a tour and he is responsible for the highest-selling stand-up DVD ever.

Now, making his first Dublin appearance, his enormous pulling power is as strong as ever. All six nights in the O2 are sold out with proceeds from the final show on Tuesday going to Irish Autism Action.

The popularity of the teetotal 38-year-old from Bolton can be explained by his catch-all brand of humour, which is gentle, self-deprecating and rooted in nostalgia.

It's also a remarkably safe brand of comedy. Only a handful of swear words pockmark his set tonight, but even those are used affectionately. No audience member gets picked on and with the exception of a gag about Michael Jackson's doctor, there's nothing remotely controversial.

Early on, Kay throws out one-liners of various quality and there's a crowd-pleasing moment when, after borrowing a video camera from a stage-hand, he proceeds to pick Brian O'Driscoll out of the audience.

"Not at the royal wedding, Brian?" he quips.

Kay is at his best when he abandons the rapid-fire jokes and focuses on story-telling based around the minutiae of everyday life. There's a hilarious routine about the pros and cons of home entertainment systems and some well-observed remembrances about being schooled at the hands of nuns.

Predictably, there's a long monologue about food. Kay shows off his enormous belly proudly and repeatedly jokes that the diet will start "on Monday". The place erupts, but in truth the routine is nothing special.

The night ends in ridiculous, but admittedly funny, fashion when Kay "plays" guitar on a mocked-up shovel, in reference to an earlier gag.

The masses go home happy. Any doubters among them are likely to remain unconvinced.

There is never a good moment to accidentally overdose on animal tranquilliser (note to editor: it was the singer himself who went public with this story), but James Allan of Phil Spector-tinged Brit rockers Glasvegas could hardly have picked a worse one. En route to a headline slot at California's Coachella festival in 2009 the frontman helped himself to a brain-freezing dose of horse immobiliser, under the impression he was imbibing a more human-friendly stripe of recreational pharmaceutical. He woke surrounded by paramedics, the performance cancelled. It was a crash-and-burn moment straight from a trashy biopic.

Two years on, the singer seems, if anything, to have plunged deeper into the role of slightly unhinged rock star. In place of the head-to-toe black he sported previously, he has adopted an all-white uniform of sleeveless t-shirt and baggy pants, so that under stage lights he looks like someone on day release from an institution.

Musically, the changes aren't quite so stark. A refinement of a formula rather than a jarring reinvention, their new album 'Euphoric Heartbreak' sees Glasvegas clinging to their sheet metal guitars, Jesus and Mary Chain drums and lyrics of honest striving and quiet empowerment. Far from prompting a re-think, it's as if the meltdown that culminated in Allan's Coachella collapse has convinced the Glaswegians they need to stick to the path they've been on, only with even greater earnestness and intensity than previously.

Unfortunately, even at their most understated Glasvegas had a tendency towards the histrionic. Now they've gone right over the edge. On 'Euphoric Heartbreak', their music gets lost in its own bluster, Allan's talent for devastating observation replaced by endless billows of bombast. It's a mistake that carries through to live performance, every line delivered as if Allan were Bono addressing the huddled masses of Sarajevo, his cousin Rab's guitars building towards a crescendo when some even-tempered strumming would suffice. Early in their career Glasvegas were hailed as the new Jesus and Mary Chain. As things stand, they are in imminent danger of becoming the Celtic Coldplay.

Evocation might well describe the last in Hugh Tinney's 'European Piano Masterworks' series at the National Concert Hall this week.

Through Debussy, Ravel and Tristan Murail, the final event is almost exclusively French, but two of Raymond Deane's 'Noctuary' pieces are well placed in this august company.

Debussy's 'Estampes' and the first set of his 'Images' bring masterly interpretations awash with infinite pianistic colours. Both have the extraordinary imagination of Debussy's musical palette revealed by Tinney's amazing clarity and precision.

'Soiree dans Grenade' -- the second 'Estampes' -- has a dreamlike quality as its veiled Habanera provides an atmosphere of seductive mystery.

In 'Reflets dans l'eau', from 'Images', Tinney's magical expressiveness creates a shimmering picture. He is quite powerful in 'Hommage a Rameau', where Debussy's admiration for his innovative ancestor is also majestic.

With playing of compelling buoyancy, there is no doubt that Hugh Tinney views the final moto perpetuo 'Mouvement' of 'Images' as the abiding influence on Stravinsky's 'Petrushka'.

Murail's rippling, and occasionally dark, 'La Mandragore' is the perfect prelude to the tumbling cascades of Ravel's 'Ondine' from his 'Gaspard de la Nuit', where Tinney captures all the nymph's tempting allure.

The constantly tolling distant bell in 'Le Gibet' paints its own sinister picture, while Ravel's extravagant 'Scarbo' brings percussive pedalling in Tinney's enthusiastic approach.

Tintinnabulation in Deane's 'Mezzotint' glistens with flashes of Messiaen and Boulez, while the energy of his 'Finnegan's Wake' inspired '...hitheringandthithering...' suggests a kind of wild toccata.

Wonderfully written, Tinney's performance has, as elsewhere, a fascinating intensity. But then he is one of our artistic treasures.

Irish Independent

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