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Chilly Gonzales, Royal Festival Hall review

mauvais

change has become unavoidable
So I've searched this place and most of the mentions of Chilly on here are my own. This is a grievous wrong and needs to be corrected. What better opportunity than now, having been to his London show last night?

[NB: any pictures stolen from Twitter-using attendees, videos taken from other shows etc]

This is a man I first noticed as a teenager in about 2000 for his work probably best described as rap/MC, and one who then journeyed through electronica and sometimes the club scene with the likes of Feist, but who's these days respected by the Radio 3 crowd for being a leading pianist. As a measure of this, some time ago I turned my own dad into a fan via the sheet music of Solo Piano - his bestselling album - and the deliberately accessible, novice-oriented resources of Etudes.

This is a man who looks a little like a cartoonish aristocratic tramp and now seems to always perform in dressing gown & slippers. Not that I have any disdain for this - rather more jealousy of the plushness.


This is a man who tonight works together in perfect melodic harmony with a string quartet - Kaiser Quartet - but also gets them to somehow put together, as part of a long running deconstructive show-and-tell narrative, the basis of an entirely workable dance/trance beat that he jokingly labels "Nazi funk". This is recalled and put into legitimate, layer-by-layer action a few pieces later.

It's this hilarious exposition that connects pieces and causes the audience to engage and often look more closely. It's a story of how musicians build on history, how classical feeds into the contemporary like Drake & Daft Punk, to the role of arpeggios and what happens to Glen Miller without them, as well as a tribute to Moroder and finally a nod to everyone's favourite Liverpudlian popsters, erm, The Rolling Stones. There's a periodic parallel here with Bill Bailey's clever dismantling of sound for effective comedy purpose, but this time once we're ready we then delve back into the serious composition. It's probably also this enthusiasm to share and educate that's brought a big chunk of the largely youthful crowd to the show, in particular lately via masterclasses featured on various radio stations.


This is a man who begins several pieces with the most minimalist play and goes on to transform it into this raging battle with the keys, and an almost impossibly quick & complex violent rolling sea of sound, both with and without the quartet. We go from the intricate and delicate to thumping beats that would fit right in at any 5 a.m. electronic festival context, and then not long after, we're back to a lights out Armellodie. He's riffed about how he wants to use the quartet as a resource, first as a sampler then a drum machine, to produce something robotic, but it's not a joke - for much of the time, such is the seamlessness of the ensemble, it's tricky to identify exactly who is contributing each component to the piece. I hadn't fully appreciated KQ's talents and the latest album, Chambers, until I saw this.


We still get the integration of his rap and lyrical talents, regularly getting more laughs out of a sometimes bemused and wrong footed audience with every line, lines like Supervillain Music's "famous in Paris, I'm embarrassed 'cause I can't cancan", but thanks to the strings, often in a fresh way that'll still bring something new to anyone who has his older albums.

Half-expected 'surprise guest' Jarvis Cocker turns up halfway through to (world?) premiere three songs together, and they're funny and intelligent with a neat origin story, but it's clearly the weakest bit of the set. Nonetheless it'll be interesting to see the end product.



As an encore finale, Chilly raps - stood upright atop his stool - and brings proceedings to an abrupt halt after Self Portrait's line, "I'm going through a difficult stage / like young Nicolas Cage / to present day Nicolas Cage". He confesses that he regrets having called himself a musical genius in said piece, because it led to him being called a self-described musical genius, and "deprived you of the opportunity to call me that". It's apparently tongue in cheek but on the overwhelming evidence, it's difficult to disagree with the man.

The only problem with this night is, unfairly, the existential big one: where the hell does the audience go from here? It's been an intricate, clever and deeply funny mix of musical talent and showmanship - at times, fine stand up comedy - from what has to be one of the best living musicians, not forgetting his incredible peers. I've never seen anything quite like it, even amongst the aggregate YouTube snippets of his other shows, and there's a fair dose of immediate emptiness as the lights go up in knowing it'll be a long time - if ever - before anything matches this. What am I supposed to do now?



So, even if classical and piano is - on paper - very much not your bag, or even if you think the opposite, that this must surely stray too far from that, I'm going to tell you that you're wrong. Whatever you're into, if you have the remotest chance to see this man at whatever personal stretch, do it. £23.50 each for us, Royal Festival Hall, booked six months ago. An enormous, wonderful, unforgettable bargain.
 
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killer b

Minimum Waste / Maximum Joy
I love Gonzales - I still have bitter pangs of regret that we didn't go to see him on a visit to berlin some years ago because we couldn't find the club he was playing in. Sounds like a magical concert.
 

ska invita

back on the other side
Never heard of him but enjoyed those clips.... Really like the piano influenced by dance music thing in general.

Btw isn't that a smoking jacket rather than a dressing gown?
 

mauvais

change has become unavoidable
I love Gonzales - I still have bitter pangs of regret that we didn't go to see him on a visit to berlin some years ago because we couldn't find the club he was playing in. Sounds like a magical concert.
It really was. I had pretty high expectations but it surpassed them by a long shot.

One of the things I didn't touch on is the nature of comedy. He's been doing this for a few years now and if you watch a few older clips you get similar jokes, set pieces and shtick repeated not just across venues but across tours - as you typically do with professional comedians, of course, no surprise.

However this time it was all pretty fresh - similar themes obviously but a moving target on how they were actually covered, which is really an achievement in itself, if it's representative anyway. I suppose it comes partly of how he's managed to forge a solid path of knowledge sharing and exposition and thus get together a broad selection to pick from.

Btw isn't that a smoking jacket rather than a dressing gown?
I'm not sophisticated enough to know the difference :D
 

mauvais

change has become unavoidable
Still not squeezed enough love out of this sad tube, but I'm not giving up.

Pop Music Masterclass Bonanza:

Chilly Gonzales' "Pop Music Masterclass" featuring Lana del Rey "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"


The Weeknd: "Can't feel my face" - 1LIVE Chilly Gonzales Pop Music Masterclass | 1LIVE


Taylor Swift: "Shake It Off" - 1LIVE Chilly Gonzales Pop Music Masterclass | 1LIVE


Queen & David Bowie: "Under Pressure" - 1LIVE Chilly Gonzales Pop Music Masterclass | 1LIVE

 

mauvais

change has become unavoidable
There's also a 50 minute concert here:


Quite a diverse set of sounds, but much more of an electronic bent there, being as it features Boys Noize. Bit cluttered IMO but some good moments.
 

killer b

Minimum Waste / Maximum Joy
I loved the piano duels he did with a concert pianist on French tv a few years ago, have you seen them?
 

mauvais

change has become unavoidable
There's a few - is that this?


There's also a piano battle with Andrew WK, but the video is a bit of a low quality mess.

Edit: although it has got a good pianist diss (as opposed to the common or garden rap diss, of course) of an intro, "Andrew, we're not so different after all, you love to party hard, and I hardly party. I'm more about work and personal responsibility"
 
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