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Scott Walker - Barbican, London, 15/11/2008

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 24 / 11 / 2008

Scott Walker - Barbican, London, 15/11/2008


While he did not appear, 60's legend Scott Walker produced 'Drifting and Tilting', which included performances of his songs from among others Damon Albarn, Gavin Friday and Dot Allison. At its third and final night at the London Barbican Anthony Strutt watches one of the year's stand out events

Scott Walker is a legend of massive proportions. He has come a long way since first starting in the music business as a teenage pin up back in the late 50s, In the early 60s he met up with John Maus, who is also known as John Stewart, Scott at the time was a bass player, and between 1963 and 1964 they recorded instrumentals and vocal tracks under the moniker of the Dalton Brothers. They are collected on a vinyl LP under the name of 'I Only Came to Dance with You' by John Stewart and Scott Engel. Scott and John first started using the name, Walker, to fake their age on I.D. to get them into nightclubs in the early 60’s. The Walker Brothers, as they became when they were joined by drummer Gary Leeds, did not become famous until they came over to England from America, When they did, the good looks of Scott, John and Gary attracted near Beatlemania. This took its toll on Scott, and, after the Walker Brothers split in 1967, he released a number of solo albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including the much acclaimed ‘Scott 4’ (1969). In the late 70s, The Walker Brothers reformed and recorded three final albums, ‘No Regrets’ (1975), ‘Lines’ (1977) and ‘Nite Flights’ (1978). They played a few last shows but by the end of the 70s Scott’s career as a live performer had come to the end. He returned in 1984 with a new solo album, ‘Climate of Hunter’; which at the time barely sold. 11 years later he delivered ‘Tilt,’ and performed two songs on it on Jools Holland's ‘Later’ in a blacked-out studio with no audience and just the cameraman present. In 1999, he scored the French in**st movie, ‘Pola X’. The following year he curated the ‘Meltdown’ Festival in London and then two years later he produced parts of Pulp's ‘We Love Life’ album. In 2006, he signed to 4AD, and released ‘The Drift’ the following year and also a four track EP called ‘And Whom Shall Go to the Ball ?’ which was commissioned for a dance company, but featured songs that were written for and weren’t used on ‘The Drift’ ‘Drifting and Tilting’ was performed over three nights at the Barbican in London, with Scott, while he didn’t appear, producing it and choreographing it. I was at the third night, and, as I didn't get a ticket to a few days before, had to get a balcony ticket. Sadly I couldn’t see the band playing at the back of the stage because I had a restricted view. The band was, however, the working band that Scott has used on the last two albums, The show was very much theatre based, a mixture of live music and dance. It was very short, seventy minutes in total, and only eight songs long, ‘Cossacks Are’, which is the first track on ‘The Drift’, opened the show and was performed by ex-Pulp front man Jarvis Cocker. Jarvis, who is now fully bearded, delivered it in dry fashion, and appeared on stage dressed as a commuter, reading a newspaper. The music was drum heavy and very industrial. ‘Jesse (September Song)’ was performed by ex-Virgin Prune, Gavin Friday. Again from ‘The Drift’, this was a torch song which found Gavin on his knees, almost like he was praying for his life. It is a song about Elvis Presley's still born twin brother, whom the young Elvis used to talk to in times of despair. ‘Clara( Benito's Dream)’ is the second track from ‘The Drift’ and was performed as a three piece by Owen Gilhooly, Dot Allison, and Nigel Richards. It is a song about the execution of the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini, who was shot and whose body was hung afterwards on public display to be mocked at by a gathering crowd. It was sung in an opera fashion, and mixed together industrial beats and Bernard Hermann-like strings. There were lots of visuals on a screen as well, including one of a boxer punching the side of a slab of raw pork. ‘Patriot’ from ‘Tilt’ had no singer on stage as far as I could see but featured a dance performance instead from an overweight transvestite. A few people walked out at this stage as apparently they had done on the two previous nights as well. Sang as a duet, it featured a vocal from the absent Scott. ‘Buzzers (faces of the grass)’ from ‘The Drift’, had Dot Allison dressed like Alice in Wonderland and standing below a glass tree. This was Dot's big solo number and she was backed by smooth acoustic guitar. ‘Jolson and Jones’, which is again from ‘The Drift’ ,was a big opera number sung by Nigel Richards and was backed by an industrial tune. ‘Cue(Flugleman)’, which was sung by Michael Henry, is a song about Sudan and the holy ghost. The whole performance was closed as it was opened by one of Britpop's biggest stars, this time Damon Albarn of Blur. He sung ‘Farmer in the City’, the opening number from ‘Tilt'.The most melodic song here, it was still decidedly eccentric. It was sung by Damon wearing wellies on an auction stand. On either side of him Owen and Nigel stood dressed in Wicker Man-like masks providing backing vocals. This was a fine closer, before afterwards the cast and crew all came back on stage to take their bows. While Scott wasn't on stage, he was in the audience and signing autographs and records both before and after the show. This was one of the year’s stand out events, but definitely one for Scott's hardcore audience and music fans with open minds only.

Picture Gallery:-
Scott Walker - Barbican, London, 15/11/2008

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