Tag Archives: Paradiso Amsterdam

Godspeed You! Black Emperor & Xylouris White in concert (Paradiso, Amsterdam)

It was one of those gigs where everything sounded just right. Already from the opening act, the -crowded- main hall of Amsterdam’s Paradiso was filled with music of both otherworldly beauty and great intensity.

The dynamic duo Xylouris White (consisting of Cretan lute player and singer Giorgos Xylouris and Australian drummer Jim White) set the tone for the rest of the evening. An exemplary blend where tradition meets innovative forms and improvisational mood, the duo’s musical explorations took the audience on a journey from the Greek island of Crete all the way to Australia and New York.

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A real master of his instrument, Giorgos Xylouris comes from a celebrated musical family (his father is the Cretan singer and lyra player Psarantonis, and his late uncle was the legendary singer Nikos Xylouris). His virtuosity combined with White’s exceptional skill in complementing and conversing with his partner’s playing resulted in a technically demanding performance delivered with passion and rigor.

Following Xylouris White, the Canadian post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor took the stage to perform songs from their latest album Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress. Using film loop projections to accompany their performance (as is customary in their live shows), the band created a unique atmosphere and went on to give a truly memorable show.

As is often the case when post-rock is at its best (think of Moqwai or Sigur Rós), the music of Godspeed You! Black Emperor invites the listener to partake both mentally and physically in the live experience. This is made possible by the wide range of dynamics and extensive build-ups that create the necessary space for this kind of engagement, leading to powerful peaks and climaxes.

It is perhaps this quality of total absorption that lies in the heart of this music’s beauty and mystery – leading to a sense of deep satisfaction for both mind and ears.

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Thanasis Papakonstantinou in concert (Paradiso, Amsterdam)

Who’s that again?

Born in 1959, Thanasis Papakonstantinou slowly emerged in the Greek music scene around the early 1990s. Influenced by folk and world music, he progressively developed his own style incorporating jazz, rock and electronic elements. This fusion has led to the creation of a unique and highly distinctive sound, establishing him as one of today’s most original Greek songwriters.

The prophet’s (hoarse) voice

The release of the album Vrachnos Profitis (‘Hoarse Prophet’) in 2000 was a turning point for Papakonstantinou’s career as a songwriter. Throughout the following years he turned increasingly experimental with regards to the production and orchestration of his records. Meanwhile, collaborating with major Greek musicians and singers has enabled him to enrich his sound and complement his own hoarse voice and limited vocal range.

His efforts have yielded some truly remarkable results, as testified by the aesthetic and artistic merits of albums like Agrypnia (‘Vigil’, 2002), O elachistos eaftos (‘The Minimal Self’, 2011), or his latest release Prosklisi se Deipno Kianiou (‘Invitation to Cyanide Dinner’, 2014).

Vigil in Amsterdam

Next to his low profile, modest media presence, and unpretentious nature, Thanasis is characterized by his relaxed stage presence and direct communication with his audience during his live performances.

This was also the case during his recent gig at Amsterdam’s Paradiso, which went on to last for more than 2 hours after an atmospheric opening with the highly evocative Agrypnia.

Shortly after the gig was over, Thanasis came down from the stage and performed a song by Greek composer Markos Vamvakaris (known as the “patriarch of the rebetiko”) to a small group of people that gathered around him to listen.

It was an intimate closing to a long evening full of enthusiasm, emotion and great music.

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Max Richter and Daniel Hope in concert (Paradiso, Amsterdam)

From baroque to the present

It is always refreshing to hear a piece of classic stature in a way you would have never imagined possible. Such is the case with Vivaldi Recomposed: The Four Seasons, Max Richter’s fascinating reworking of Vivaldi’s timeless masterpiece (which has been through several creative transformations through the years).

Richter’s imaginative and highly idiosyncratic re-composition of The Four Seasons is indeed a unique achievement. Having infused Vivaldi’s work with postmodern and minimalist elements, Richter has at the same time managed to remain faithful to the music’s innermost essence producing a result of the highest standards, both aesthetically and technically.

Four Seasons in Paradise

On September 10, I was one of the fortunate Amsterdamers who had the opportunity to experience a live performance of the recomposed Four Seasons (for the first time in The Netherlands) by Max Richter, British violinist Daniel Hope and L’arte del mondo orchestra at Paradiso’s magnificent Grote Zaal.

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Given Paradiso’s tradition in bringing together the old the new, one could hardly think of a better venue for the occasion. Following an impressive opening by the vigorous Francesco Tristano and Alice Sara Ott piano duo, Richter and Hope gave a truly exhilarating performance which produced a highly enthusiastic response from the audience.

And rightly so: it is not every day that one gets to enjoy live the combined magic of Vivaldi’s captivating music and Richter’s innovative vision coming to life under the imposing windows of Amsterdam’s most celebrated music venue.

Richard Thompson in concert (Paradiso, Amsterdam)

The multi-talented mr. Thompson

British guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson started his long recording career in 1967 as a member of Fairport Convention. His exceptional guitar technique and songwriting skills soon earned him a highly acclaimed status among peer folk-rock musicians, and many of his songs have been subsequently covered by a wide range of artists (including Elvis Costello and David Gilmour).

Mostly known for his skilled acoustic playing, Thompson has deployed several styles over the years. He often plays bass notes using a pick between his thumb and first finger, adding the melody and extra ornamentation by plucking the treble strings with the rest of his fingers. Sometimes he also makes use of a thumb-pick, as in the motorcycle ballad 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.

A ‘folky’ power trio

His latest album Electric was released earlier this year, peaking at number 16 on the UK Album Chart (the highest charting album of his career so far). I recently had the chance to see Thompson perform live with his “electric trio” in Amsterdam, in one of the stops of his ongoing tour on both sides of the Atlantic.

It was interesting to watch such a revered acoustic player going electric, trying to emulate the sound of good old power trios like Cream or The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Towards the closing of the concert, however, Thompson made this telling confession: “You know, we are too folky to be a real power trio.”

With that, he grabbed his acoustic guitar and offered the audience a couple of excellent acoustic solo performances. He came back with his trio for a final tune: a magnificent, electrifying version of Hey Joe à la Hendrix.

Whether folky, acoustic, or electric, one thing about Richard Thompson is certain: He surely remains a guitar powerhouse and a great inspiration for players worldwide.

Devendra Banhart in concert (Paradiso, Amsterdam)

First Rodrigo, then Devendra

Two necessary components of any enjoyable evening at the concert hall are: a) good company, and b) great music. Both were in place last night at club Paradiso, where I had the good luck to enjoy the wonderfully weird art of Venezuelan American singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart.

A small revelation for me was the opening act: Brazilian guitarist, singer and songwriter Rodrigo Amarante. His soft playing on the guitar accompanied perfectly his mellow, soothing voice. Meanwhile, his tunes produced a mesmerizing effect, making for an excellent opening to Banhart’s own entry to the stage.

And then, a pleasant surprise! Rodrigo comes back on stage, this time as a member of Devendra’s backing band. Having met back in 2006 at Tim Festival  in Rio de Janeiro, the two artists had also collaborated in the song Rosa from Devendra’s album Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.

Banhart live!

Surrounded by a few more excellent musicians, Banhart performed songs from his latest album Mala as well as older tunes, including a long magnificent rendition of Seahorse. The show closed with Carmensita, probably Banhart’s most widely recognized tune, causing a slight frenzy among the crowd.

Seeing Devendra Banhart live was a gratifying experience, especially as I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. His unique singing style, self-mockery and quasi-improvised choreography on stage was a perfect match to his delightful tunes and bittersweet lyrics. His hair may not be as long and his outfits not as extravagant, yet Banhart surely knows how to put up a great show.

cat-power-paradiso

Cat Power in concert (Paradiso, Amsterdam)

Rise, fall and rise again

American singer-songwriter Charlyn Marie Marshall (born January 21, 1972), better known by her stage name Cat Power, was originally discovered in 1994 by Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth. After a hiatus around the turn of the millennium, she reemerged with her soul-inspired, award-winning album The Greatest (2006), which was recorded with a rhythm band comprised of Memphis studio musicians.

Her latest album Sun (2012) was the first one since The Greatest to feature solely original material. It received mostly positive reviews and was in many ways a venture of cathartic nature for Cat Power, who had been facing alcohol-related problems and mental health issues in the past.

Live at Club Paradiso, Amsterdam

Before going to watch Cat Power at Paradiso earlier this week, I knew that her live performances had a reputation for being quite unpredictable (she had abruptly cut short some of her shows in the past due to drinking problems or stage fright). Thankfully, none of this took place this time around. Charlyn and her band went on to deliver a perfectly professional show, playing a total of approximately 90 minutes.

Still, a fragility in her voice and body language made it clear that this is someone who has been through rough times. And perhaps it’s precisely this hard-won maturity that has infused new meaning into her lyrics, while making her soothing voice sound even more attractive.

As was the case with one of the evening’s most captivating moments, when the lights went dim and the entire hall fell silent as she sang:

“Everything you have to go through
With a smile on your face
Everything we now know, with a smile on our face
I, I can never forget”

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