Perspectives: Change The World – Bertolt Brecht Songs and Poems for 2019
Date – 14th and 15th of September, 2019
Venue – National Concert Hall
Bertolt Brecht –
“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”
This was a night dedicated to the work of Bertolt Brecht and included some well known international names such as former Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld and German singer/ actress Ute Lemper. It was also a history lesson as each artist gave us information about the life and work of Brecht. He was born in 1898 in Germany, so lived through some of the most important times of the last century.
There was a five piece band on stage for the duration of the night, with piano, guitar, drums, double bass and a variety of wind instruments including saxophone and flute. The six vocalists each performed three or four songs, other than Ute Lemper who had a longer set than the rest. There were also a selection of poems read by the artists as brief intermissions between the musical sets.
The first performer on stage was Blixa Bargeld who read a poem. Next up, Camille O’Sullivan appeared on stage to perform one of Brecht’s most famous songs, Mack the Knife taken from The Threepenny Opera, a song composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Brecht.
Cathal Coughlan was next on stage. As you can see from the production notes below, he is listed as the poetry and musical advisor for the event. He credited Philip Chevron of the Radiators from Space for his love of Brecht. His short set was one of the best of the night.
Meow Meow (Australian born singer Melissa Madden Gray) was next on stage with a memorable set, including one song that she hoped would convert the audience to communism in its five minutes duration! She also dragged a number of audience members on stage to lift her in some provocative poses, which was no doubt more than they expected from their trip to the Concert Hall! The touch of comedy lightened the mood nicely.
After a short interval, Gavin Friday took the microphone for his set. Friday has long performed Brecht’s work and has a natural sense of bravado that suits the music. Blixa Bargeld had a very short set which included the Bilbao song in his native German with subtitles.
The final performer of the night was Ute Lemper, and the German singer and actress was the main attraction with a substantially longer set than the rest. Highlights included a wonderful duet with Gavin Friday of the Ballad of Immoral Earnings.
“There was a time, now very far away
When we set up together, I and she
I had the brains, and she supplied the breast
I did her right, and she supported me”
Ballad of Immoral Earnings – Threepenny Opera
Despite having two performances at the Concert Hall, it seems strange an event such as this did not have a longer touring life, as it was clear a huge amount of work went into the evening. It was obvious that those involved had an in depth knowledge of Brecht’s life and work. There was even a blow against populism as the ‘Moon of Alabama’ was absent from the set. It was just about the only thing missing from a perfect evening for Brecht fans.
Terry Edwards, Horns/Musical Director (Gallon Drunk, PJ Harvey, Spiritualized, Tindersticks)
Michael Blair, Drums/perc (Tom Waits, Gavin Friday, Elvis Costello)
Eric Mingus – Bass (Mingus Big Band, Nick Cave, Elvis Costello)
Rod Melvin – Piano/keyboards (Brian Eno, Immodesty Blaize)
Paul Cuddeford – Guitars (Paul Weller, Bob Geldof, Tom Jones).
Musical Director Terry Edwards
Poetry and musical advisor Cathal Coughlan
Produced by Gary Sheehan