40 + 5

Bing & Ruth, The Lantern, Colston Hall, Bristol.

Modern classical piano at what has been the most visited and beloved venue of this year.

Mary Anne Hobbs (yes her again) had played one of Bing’s new tracks on her Recommends show a couple of weeks back. I loved it so much that when she said he was playing Bristol I immediately bought a ticket. Not a one of the gigs I have been to on Mary Anne’s recommendation has been anything other than superb so I had high hopes for this.

Robert Plant was playing in the main hall. I’ve a confession to make. I’ve never liked Led Zep. There, I feel better getting that off my chest. So I am firmly blaming him for the over the top security employed at this gig. I’ve been to Colston Hall a lot this year and clearly a lot of other gigs. I have never been so aggressively searched as I was tonight. The guy had his hands right inside my handbag, even when I had clearly shown him the contents and moved things around. It made me feel quite uncomfortable and a little shaky. Colston Hall is usually such an open and welcoming place that I feel comfortable in it. I didn’t tonight. Which is a real shame because I have seen so many wonderful and brilliant gigs there and I am now left feeling unsure about returning.

I was a little apprehensive before the show started as a result. Which wasn’t helped by it being a) freezing cold and b) pitch black throughout the performance. Honestly, Lantern, what were you playing at tonight?!

The stage was empty bar the piano which was positioned so that the player would be facing away from us. Perhaps he is very shy I thought, or he wants us to concentrate solely on the sounds he makes and not how. There was no support act. Bing (and I’m going to call him that because its cute and I like it) came out, sat down and simply played. No introductions. No chat. No space even between pieces. He played, and he played and he played until an hour had passed. In that time I wept with the exquisite beauty of his playing. Sweeping, intimate, grand, emotional, stunning.

He mainly played from his latest release, although I am certain there was some improvising and embellishing going on. The record is with other musicians as well, so hearing it performed solo was even more special. The notes, resonance and atmosphere of a piano climb inside you. Well they do the way Bing plays. Soft, loud, juxtaposed, nerve jangling and emotionally heavy all at once. Building to resolution and crescendo and yet also not. Leaving you filled and empty all at once. Filled with wonder and joy and empty with sadness and pain. Like the exquisite pain of love and longing that is in my heart.

This was a gig that helped me make sense of tangled emotions. Thank you Bing.

40+5 was a softer, quieter and more intimate gig than many.



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