Just be yourself, sir. Whatever happens, they can’t take that away from you.
I love live music. While I still go to see big bands from time to time, many of the singers and bands I see are less established. This has the benefit of smaller more intimate venues and cheaper tickets. Unsigned or on independent labels most will never “make it” in the traditional sense. They will never become millionaires and I am unlikely to hear their songs played on the radio, but they are professional musicians making a living playing music and performing cover songs on Saturday night TV talent shows looking for their fifteen minutes.
So why am I telling you all this? On Wednesday night I went to a very different concert, and one that made me think of all the great singers and bands I have seen that have then disappeared into obscurity. Clint Mansell didn’t just “make it”, he made it twice; first in the 80’s and 90’s in the band Pop Will Eat Itself then in the past twenty years as a film composer. A chance meeting with Darren Aronofsky, who at the time was looking for a composer for his début feature Pi has lead to one of the most enduring collaborations in recent movie history. And that is what I was there for, a live performance of some highlights from his movie scores. A friend had purchased the tickets way in November last year and asked it I was interested.
But before we get to Wednesdays show; the thing that got me thinking about past bands and gigs, was Mansell talking about all the Birmingham venues he used to play back in the day. He reeled off a list including The Barrel Organ, The Golden Eagle, The Powerhouse and the Hummingbird (later reopened as The Academy). But tonight was different, he was playing Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, regarded as one of the world’s best concert halls and home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Located on my doorstep since it opened twenty-five years ago, I am ashamed to admit I have never been there before. I felt better when I later learnt that this was also Clint Mansell’s first visit. Self-deprecating all evening he was never overawed by the location but was almost apologetic about being there. Had dropped to his knees and quoted Wayne’s World I wouldn’t have been surprised, he didn’t, and he didn’t have to worry about his himself or his music belonging in the esteemed hall, they were a perfect fit. Given the setting I was expecting an orchestra, instead we were treated to fully amplified band combined with a string quartet. Given Mansell’s reputation for combining orchestral music with electronic instruments it was the perfect blend. The entire ensemble were brilliant by the way.
I remember loving the music for Requiem for a Dream whilst watching the film, but when lent the CD recently found it a hard listen as a piece of music. I was stunned by Black Swan when I saw the film but appreciated the brilliance of it even more after visiting the ballet and hearing Swan Lake performed by a live orchestra. I would say these were highlights of the night, but every piece had its own highlight. Pi, were it all began didn’t have the souring orchestral highs of Noah or The Fountain but had other charms. And for those who think Mansell only works with Aronofsky, take a look at his filmography. It includes but isn’t limited to Moon (Duncan Jones), Stoker (Chan-wook Park) and the High-Rise (Ben Wheatley). He played pieces from both Moon and High-Rise but sadly not Stoker.
Don’t think it was a stuffy and serious show. Between the music Clint Mansell told stories about his past life as a pop star and a funny story about visiting Madonna’s house, all of which helped make the night a real treat, but a rare one. He has only performed this show a handful of times, I believe it will be less than twenty shows in five years by the time the tour finishes next week. Finally, for those who are wondering the quote at the top is from the movie Trading places, Denholm Elliott’s character says it to Eddie Murphy’s before his first day at work when he is worried that he won’t fit in. Clint Mansell quoted it early in the show, it became more relevant as the night went on.