Wednesday 30th October, 2019
As soon as the tickets for this went on sale, I grabbed one, not entirely knowing if I would be able to get there or not; a Wednesday night in London, during half term, might prove tricky. I v the risk because Colin is like no other you will see live and I knew that whatever strings I had to pull to be able to be there would be worth it.
It all worked out in the end and I was even able to grab a seat in the front row, mere minutes before the first support act came onstage.
I have no idea what instrument Stefan Fraunberger played, he may or may not have made it himself. Part electronic, part stringed, played with beaters and bows and capable of making very loud and very soft noises all at once, fed through effects boxes, switches and peddles it was certainly original and I was happy to have been there early enough to have heard him. I don’t know if he played one continuous piece or if there were separate tracks within the cacophony but it makes no difference, the jarring and unnerving sounds were entirely suited to the beautiful chapel and All Hallows Eve Eve. I sighed deeply and felt at home with his strange music. It felt almost like the soundtrack to a dystopian sci fi movie directed perhaps by Fellini. I liked it a lot.
Neumes were next, and although slightly more standard; there were drums, electrics, a guitar and voice, they were also making music that felt difficult to classify and that is an area I am happy in. The tracks played on piano were my favourite, the vocals were easier to hear and I am a sucker for an old Joanna.
I’ve been lucky enough to hear Colin Stetson play live twice before, once solo and once with his band Ex:Eye so I thought I knew what to expect. I didn’t. Even my very strong memories of being completely blown away by him in Manchester as part of 40 gigs weren’t quite flavoursome enough.
He opened with Spindrift and as the notes slid around in the acoustics of the chapel (heavenly indeed) I started to cry. I couldn’t help myself; the sound was so enveloping and intense. Hearing Colin play is an experience, a full senses assault, one like no other. He is an original, a one off, a special talent who pushes the saxophone and his body like an endurance athlete, into new sonic soundscapes that go places dark and deep to explore emotions hitherto undiscovered.
When he took out the big bass sax, a proper beast of an instrument, the depth of the sound made the floor vibrate and my senses tingle. Colin and his saxophones are as one, like a gazelle and a lion, locked in the dance of death. There is spectacular beauty in the fight, a majesty in the hunt and even the kill that demands respect. Being sat mere feet away and able to see the puff in Colin’s cheeks, the strain of muscle and sinew, the effort of every note, feeling the floor beneath my feet vibrate through my body as the music hit my ears, was something else.
There was a track on the middle size sax, the one I’ve no idea what it is called, that looks like a scientific instrument rather than a musical one, that knocked me sideways in its complexity. There was just so much going on sonically that the only way I could process it was to gasp and then cry some more. No other response would have made sense to my overwhelmed senses. It was exactly what I needed. Another track, which I think he said was called The Six, that truly amazed me. It started off almost like a hymn with beauty and truth to it, before turning darker and more twisted and becoming something completely different. The sheer range of sounds Colin produces is incredible.
There was a brand new, as yet untitled piece, on the tenor sax that was so beautiful it also moved me to tears. I sat, gazing up in wonder and simply marvelled at how these sounds were possible. One man, one instrument, no looping, no effects, just Colin and a saxophone.
I’ve been in a terrible gig funk, not really enjoying myself and feeling as if I’ve lost the thing that means the most to me. music. Well I found the cure for my malaise last night in the shape of Colin Stetson. The music poured in and the emotions spilled right out, exactly as I needed it to, order was restored.
No words will ever do justice to Colin’s talent. No record will ever capture the essence of hearing him play live. If you ever get the chance to see and hear him play, take it, grab it with both hands and hold on for dear life. It is an experience you will not regret I promise you.
Thank you, Colin, for sharing your musical talent with us. Oh, and come back soon, I want to hear you play again and again. This one was truly special.