David Sylvian at the RFH

david sylvian at the RFH London

Went to see David Sylvian last night at the RFH last night, with Lo, Catster and The Cheat. I’ve been a big fan of his (that’s David Sylvian, not The Cheat) for ages, but had never got to see him live so was really looking forward to it. When I found out a couple of days ago that the wonderful and lovely Theo Travis was playing sax and flute with him, I was even more excited. Any day watching Theo play music is a good day.

The gig was, as expected wonderful – moodily lit, as you can see in the above photo, and the rest of my sneakily taken rubbish camera phone pics, the band played a range of stuff from right across David’s career, all the way from Ghosts through tracks of Brilliant Trees, Gone To Earth, Secrets Of The Beehive, Dead Bees On A Cake to last year’s Blemish (was Blemish last year? the year before? whatever…) – all good stuff. It was odd hearing DS without the foil of another guitar player – one of the defining features of his records is that he almost always has a mad guitarist as the random element in the midst of the calmness – BJ Cole on Gone To Earth, David Torn on Secrets Of The Beehive, Fripp and Trey Gunn on The First Day, Derek Bailey on Blemish etc… – but tonight it was just himself on guitar, playing simple acoustic strummy stuff on almost all of the tunes. Very simple acoustic strummy stuff – he appears to only use about 4 chord shapes… Which worked, but left me wondering what another guitarist would’ve added. Thankfully, Theo was there as that random more freewheeling element – the tracks without him were noticeably more restrained, tied more tightly to the sequenced tracks that fleshed out most of the gig with bleeps, squeaks and canned brass and woodwind. With Theo playing in and around the tunes, they took on a more spontaneous feel, and it seemed to lift the band into a more spontaneous place, intentionally or otherwise.

All in, a gorgeous gig. I love the fact that DS doesn’t feel the need to throw in an up-tempo number to please the crowd – the dynamic changes were largely left to whether the ever-brilliant Steve Jansen was playing predominantly acoustic or electronic percussion; the acoustic stuff being far more dynamic, which the electronic kept everything in a really tightly defined dynamic and emotional framework.

5 Replies to “David Sylvian at the RFH”

  1. I L-o-o-o-ve David Sylvian’s music.

    I saw him play about ten years ago at the Royal ALBERT Hall with Robert Fripp, and funnily enough, judging by your photos, I sat at about the same distance from the stage as you, and at about the same angle (even though it was a different venue)!

    Utterly brilliant.

  2. … Saw him at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham last night! Fell in love with this guy at the start of his careeer many moons ago…followed and bought everything (of h is/theirs in various guises) since! Last night was mind blowing! The acoustics in the Symphony Hall were out of this world! A perfect stage for a unique outer wordly talent! I need to see him again!

  3. Mike, you SOO should’ve gone to the gig – it was fab. David, hope you get to see it again in Amsterdam – I’m sure it’ll be even better second time round, though I’m not sure if Theo will be on that gig…

  4. I don’t speak Dutch but I think only the worst seats are now available. I’m not sure it’s worth making the trip.

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