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Live Reviews

Theo Bleckmann at Le Poisson Rouge: The Music Of Kate Bush

By Published: October 17, 2010
"Hello Earth," also from Hounds Of Love—and the song Bleckmann used to title his Bush project—began with a thunderous violin entrance, before Bleckmann traced Bush's story of climbing out of her car and looking up to the sky, where she sees a space shuttle "travelling fast." Yet it was also written from the point of view of a person in the shuttle, hence the title. Bleckmann's version of the song was ten minutes in length, enabling the singer and his band to build up quite a degree of mystery. Bleckmann interspersed a slower middle passage with spoken words and an electronic take on mouth harp. As piano added spiky angular notes, Bleckmann's vocals and the new rhythm made the music sound a little like The Talking Heads. Once again, Hollenbeck assumed an important role.

An interesting tune called "Breathing" followed, from Bush's Never For Ever (EMI, 1980). Bleckmann introduced "Cloudbusting," from Hounds Of Love, as based on the true story of a son watching his father—Wilhelm Reich, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and a later friend of Albert Einstein—being deported by the American authorities over his invention of a machine that could start rain. Bleckmann also commented on the audience's recognition of album names: "I'm glad to see that people know her music." Jaunty, yet haunted music, somewhat reminiscent of The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles

' "Eleanor Rigby," greeted the audience.

Then there was "All The Love," followed by "Saxophone Song," the latter from The Kick Inside, which began with a fast, jazz-style bass and drum rhythm. Rapid piano and choppy violin joined in, the violin soon becoming melodic. The fast pace was kept up through Bleckmann's vocals, until a falsetto passage. Berhans delivered an astonishing electric violin solo, his instrument sounding like an electric guitar but eventually played much faster than it might seem a guitar could play. All the while, Hollenbeck clattered under the solo, his sheet music in front of the snare.

As the solo wound down, attention was drawn to Bleckmann—seated, and holding a xylophone-style mallet in his right hand and what looked like a tiny toy grand piano in his left, segueing into "Army Dreamers," from Never For Ever. Bleckmann highly recommended the album for the cover art, explaining that the song told the story of a doomed soldier: ..."what a waste of army dreamers." Bleckmann whistled the song's figure, as the verse turned into call-and-response, with the band members singing and Bleckmann answered. After the song, Bleckmann said there are not enough anti-war songs: "Not enough songs, quite enough wars."

The next song was "And Dream of Sheep," Bush's song written from the perspective of a person struggling to survive in the water in a life jacket. As Bleckmann explained, the point is that in order to live you have to stay awake, not fall asleep. "A lot of her songs are about dreams and dreamscapes," said Bleckmann. He also said they would go straight from "And Dream of Sheep" into "Under Ice," from the viewpoint of a person under the ice looking up at ice-skaters. Having once been a figure skater, Bleckmann joked, he had to do this song. Berhans, again on violin, played the repeated three-note figure on the words "under ice" in a minor key, as Bleckmann sang what the watcher could see from below. It was indeed a bit creepy, as the singer earlier described "Breathing."

As the concert neared to its end, the band performed Bush's signature song, "The Man With The Child In His Eyes." The drifting melody was in three parts—a melodic masterpiece—and Bleckmann did it justice, in his own distinctive way.

"Love And Anger" was the final song; an upbeat number, after which Bleckmann referred to the last hurrahs of summer outside in the street, saying that Le Poisson Rouge was his favorite place for singing. This venue---once The Village Gate—is certainly unique, combining the advantages of an intimate room with the effect of a large stage performance.

Bleckmann's Bush project achieves something new in rock/popular music: a presentation of the work of a rock writer by, essentially, a popular music group, rather than the more common large scale orchestral arrangements that are sometimes made of a band's oeuvre. Better with a band of guitar and piano—and here, the expressive violin—the music was closer to the original, and didn't lose anything in translation. In time, more performers may follow Bleckmann's lead, performing entire concerts focusing on the music of a particular writer, either in the same or similar arrangements.

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