Saturday, 14 March 2009

British Music Experience/O2

Friday. The first treat of the evening was the boat ride to O2 itself. Rather than chug along the Thames at the expected leisurely pace, this clipper bombed it down at a speed I'd never experienced on the River before. London still looks like a fabulously wealthy city despite current problems.

We're welcomed to the British Music Experience by Harvey Goldsmith who asks (pleads..?) the assembled guests not to forget to buy stuff at the BME shop which, needless to say, is the first thing you encounter as you walk through the doors. Sex Pistols tumblers! I ask you.

But it was the BME's main attraction we were there for, the very functional Soundstage, its medium sized concert venue which tonight was hosting short sets from the American flugelhorn player, Dominick Farinacci and British jazz's wunderkind, Jamie Cullum .

Disappointingly most of the assembled music industry people chose to talk through Farinacci's melodic offerings . But they did shut up with the arrival of Jamie, the first big name to perform at Soundstage, who was using the opportunity to roll out some songs from his up and coming album (his first in four years...).

Cute though some people find him, his songs are full of knowing pops at the world around him, not least the record industry. It's that wry detail that will ensure he'll always stay clear of boy band blandness. That and of course his piano playing which has lost none of its exuberance. He and his band were on driving form who clearly relished the chance to showcase some great new songs, in particular a disco number which ought to be a hit.

While Jamie rocked - and he really was - I slipped out to look at the BME's exhibition. Rather than dividing British pop music into decades it settles instead for musical shifts - 1962-66, 1970-1976 etc. Each get its own room with plenty of interactive stuff that can be - ingenious this - saved on your entrance ticket which you can download at home.

I made full use of this on Dance the Decades; you get to dance to a track by monkeying the dancer on the video screen in front of you. Embarrassing really but what the hell.... (click on Dance Video)

If that isn't a big enough draw there is also a room stacked full of guitars, keyboards and drums for punters to test out, complete with a video guides on chord changes etc. I admit I lost myself a bit on a lovely electric piano but no harm in that.

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