INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Times MAY 11, 2010 - by Stephen Dalton
BRIAN ENO & FRIENDS AT THE DOME, BRIGHTON
Typical. You wait more than thirty years for a Brian Eno live show and then three come along at once. A highlight of his tenure as guest artistic director of the Brighton Festival this year, the sixty-one-year-old pop polymath played his first full British concerts since 1974 in quick succession on Sunday. Sharing the stage with seven musicians, including the Underworld vocalist Karl Hyde and the Australian experimental jazz trio The Necks, the shiny-domed boffin performed behind a desk full of computers and keyboards, looking not unlike Captain Picard on the bridge of the USS Enterprise.
Eno coined the term "scenius" to describe these semi-improvised performances, highlighting the collective effort behind great music. That said, he was clearly the band leader. The vaguely sci-fi conceit was that Eno was giving a university lecture on "cultural reconstruction" some fifty years from now, recreating the pop music forms of the early twenty-first century in an academic setting. Thankfully, this intellectual framework was worn lightly. Indeed, Eno was giggling as he introduced fictional genres including "Ambient Thrash Lounge" and "North American Pedagogic".
The mood was laid-back and warm as Eno traded deadpan jokes with band and audience. Most of their pieces were lengthy and fluid, incorporating jazz, electronica, progressive rock, ambient soundscapes and spoken-word poetry. At their worst, they meandered aimlessly. But at their best, they sounded like some magnificent parallel-universe collaboration between Radiohead, Erik Satie and the Krautrock pioneers Neu!
The menu varied between the three shows, but there was some crossover. The haunting Pink Moon, the only conventional song the group have yet composed, appeared twice. Likewise I Want to Touch It, a ferociously propulsive punk-jazz stomp.
The performances seemed to gain intensity throughout the day, starting out cerebral and dry but building to a visceral, immersive experience. Even after almost five hours of playing, they sounded fresh and inventive.