The LA-born Londoner’s soulful pop and beguiling voice have drawn the attention of Lily Allen and Michael Kiwanuka. As if lifted straight from a Lana Del Rey video, Celeste Waite’s earliest musical memories are of being driven around in her grandad’s vintage cherry-red Jaguar, listening to Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. “When I was younger it was amazing to me, but as I got older I got used to that music falling upon my ears,” she said in a recent interview. Fast-forward a couple of decades and Celeste’s own output clearly reflects this formative education. Born in LA, Celeste was three when her parents split and she moved to Essex, and then Brighton with her mother. She wrote her first song at 16, and after her current manager found it online, she ended up releasing an EP, The Milk & The Honey, with Lily Allen’s Bank Holiday Records label in 2017. The following year, Celeste signed to Polydor, catching the attention of label-mate Michael Kiwanuka, who she’ll tour with next month, and working on a five-track EP, Lately, which she released in March. Proving Celeste’s deft ability to sever a heartstring, it moves from the soul-tinged jazz of the title track, to sultry toxic love ballad Both Sides of the Moon, via Father’s Son, a heartbreaking examination of absent fathers. Each song offers a different demonstration of her standout voice; at times it’s bellowing and urgent, in softer moments barely more than a languid whisper, but always uniquely arresting. Celeste plays Omeara, London, 12-14 November. She’ll perform on Later… With Jools Holland on BBC Two, 24 October, 10pm & 11.15pm/ 25 October, 11.05pm
‘Part chaos-bringer, part drill sergeant’: Slowthai, AKA Tyron Frampton, in Glasgow last week. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The ObserverAt some point during the melee that is this Slowthai gig, a bra lands on the stage. The grinning Northampton rapper drapes it over his head, a pair of flapping D-cups giving him the look of a demented puppy.The song is Ladies, the track off his debut album, Nothing Great About Britain, where Slowthai pays tribute to “the ladies” – not just as makers of babies, but as makers of men. Like any number of rappers on both sides of the Atlantic, Tyron Frampton was raised by strong women in the face of considerable odds, an upbringing he details later on a track called Northampton’s Child. In short: teenage mum, absent dad, dodgy stepfather, a series of council flats, the death of his baby brother… it has all arguably contributed to making Slowthai the breakout British artist of 2019, in cultural significance, if not crude album sales.The bra ears, meanwhile, come accessorised with a John Lydon stare, a bottle of Buckfast, a T-shirt that says “Slowthai” in the form of the Irn-Bru logo, and, later, a bare chest with prison inmate-style tattoos – one of them Nothing Great About Britain. His wide, gappy smile speaks both of an overactive inner child and something darker.Another set of floppy ears roams the stage: Woioii the Crack Rabbit, a mascot with a filthy bunny head and demonic, glowing red eyes. Woioii has his own Instagram and apparently represents Slowthai’s chemically inclined past. Two songs in is Drug Dealer, in which the young Frampton – a stigmatised young male from the “Bush” area of Northampton, where the council estates are hidden behind a screen of trees – answers a teacher’s question about his future plans with a truthful reply. He’ll be a drug dealer when he grows up. (“Sorry mum” is another of his tattoos.)> Nothing Great About Britain uses his hyper-local reference points to make universal arguments about class and raceAlongside Slowthai’s DJ, producer and hype man, Kwes Darko, Woioii is there to swirl up a moshpit that doesn’t actually require risotto levels of prodding. A circle pit takes up all the space between the stage and the mixing desk in this sold-out 1,250-capacity venue. The gig was recently upgraded to accommodate demand – in no way was a smaller boîte elsewhere in this warehouse complex going to contain all this consensual aggro. Slowthai’s sonics tend largely towards grime and US hip-hop, but the action has the muscular gaiety of a punk gig. “Run clockwise in a circle until your feet fall off!” he commands at one point, part chaos-bringer, part drill sergeant. He could easily be caricatured as the attack dog of austerity Britain – Nothing Great About Britain uses his hyper-local reference points to make universal arguments about class, race, the withdrawn ladders of social mobility and slippery slopes snaking down – but Slowthai’s gleeful charisma makes his a more complex offering than that.In medieval times, court jesters were licensed to tell truth to power, provided they entertained. Slowthai is fulfilling that brief in 2019. Sometimes he is direct and uncouth (“Elizabeth, you cunt,” he quips, on the title track of his debut album). There are a couple of dud songs in this set, where the energy levels drop and the tunes don’t quite make up for it.Sometimes, however, there is a greater degree of sophistication at play. His ideas can startle. Instead of a backdrop, the Bet Ya a £5er tour (tickets: £5) features a clever trick: lots of mirrors, as you might find in a perv’s boudoir. Not, as Slowthai later jokes, to show off how great the back of him looks, but to hold up a mirror to what is actually great about Britain, its people – or Slowthai fans, at any rate. Even in an age of social media, Slowthai is particularly fan-forward, using Twitter to max out the guest list, inviting an audience member – tonight, make way for Phoebe – on stage to perform the absent guest MC Skepta’s verse on Inglorious.At the Mercury prize ceremony last month, Slowthai may not have won the album of the year prize (Dave did), but he dominated the talking points by waving around a rubbery severed head of Boris Johnson. Tonight’s merch stall is doing a roaring trade in those obscene Boris Ts, a “fuck Boris” chant echoing even after the gig ends. While the Mercury symbolism was blunt, Slowthai’s Twitter justification – not an apology – explained his actions: “The people in power who are trying to isolate and divide us are not the ones who will feel its effects the hardest. They’re not the ones queuing at the food banks, not the ones navigating universal credit, and not the ones having to deal with systematic oppression and hate crimes at the hands of privileged politicians who say what they want without fear and consequence.”Watch the video to Slowthai and Denzel Curry’s Psycho.Tonight, the pontificating is kept to a minimum: there are many young pores to open in this sweat bath and belongings to sacrifice to the pit (“You lost your glasses? Get some new ones!” Slowthai suggests). And if the set list mostly revisits songs from his five-month-old album – it feels like it has been around far longer – a couple of tracks point forwards. Slowthai has spoken vaguely of his next steps – an album that you can smell, “growth”, “not a follow-up or a sequel”, but in the meantime, momentum is gathering further afield.Released last month, a new single, Psycho, found Slowthai combining with Florida rapper Denzel Curry in a two-hander that dripped with ferocity. It established that a man known for rapping about Cash in the Attic, being blacklisted by minicab firms and tea and biscuits now has traction Stateside. Curry’s not here tonight, but everyone goes feral for Psycho nonetheless, featuring as it does some of Slowthai’s most impressive wordplay so far: “Flow is hysterical, you sound terrible/High off the chemicals, turn you vegetable, why are you cynical?/You are minuscule, drain you of minerals, nothin’ but residue.”Shorter and less impressive is Heaven Belongs to You, his contribution to the latest album by US outfit Brockhampton, somewhere between a boyband and a hip-hop crew. Significantly, Slowthai recently gave up his slot supporting Liam Gallagher on his forthcoming dates to join Brockhampton’s North American tour, signalling, perhaps, a desire to capitalise on his burgeoning reputation in the US rather than be misunderstood by ageing mods.For now, though, Slowthai is still repping hard for the east Midlands, a proxy for the whole country. Doorman, the night’s final track, is about the perils of fancying a rich girl, and the role of club doormen and gatekeepers of all sorts, “the people who shut the door in your face and don’t give you the opportunity”. It’s a huge singalong in which mayhem ensues. There is no encore.
As ‘pop documentary’ Arthur is reissued and turned into a radio drama, the singer explains why it is more relevant than ever. Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire) is a courageous concept album, about both personal loss and the loss of imperial identity after the second world war. But when it came out in 1969 the record industry did not know what to do with it, despite reviews in the music press saluting a creative masterpiece. This autumn the Kinks’ lyrical story of an ordinary man caught up in a time of great national change has been turned into a BBC Radio 4 show, broadcast next month. For Sir Ray Davies, the band’s revered frontman, the radio revival and a 50-year anniversary re-release of the album this week could not have come at a more fitting moment. “It has found its voice. By sheer coincidence, it resonates more now that it did then,” he told the Observer. The struggles and uncertainty of the postwar era are matched, he believes, by the current search for what it means to be English or British. “Today, I feel we have got a similar atmosphere. To be fairly critical, looking back at the 60s, I think we blew it,” he said. “It was a generation that made great art, but the politics and the country was falling apart.” Davies, 75, describes the album as a “pop documentary” rather than a “pop opera”. Featuring his well-known songs Shangri-la and Victoria, it tells of a working-class family split in two when the father figure, Arthur, decides to move to Australia to make a better life. “I brought in all these characters I knew and used the break-up of family as a metaphor for the break-up of empire,” Davies explained. Back in the 1960s a television version of the musical story got as far as being cast by Granada, with actor Frank Finlay as the lead. “He was a bit older than we’d imagined. Another generation up,” said Davies. “But anyway there was a falling out between the producer and the director and Granada TV. Words were said to the effect of ‘If I don’t get what I want I’m walking.’ And they said, ‘Go ahead.’ ” The playwright Julian Mitchell had written a script, inspired by the life of Davies’s brother-in-law, and Davies wrote 12 accompanying songs. “As an album it is a signpost of where the Kinks were going,” said Davies. “We stopped being a pop band with the album The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society the year before, which was a homage to my spiritual or fantasy world. Then, with Arthur, I turned back to reality. I wanted to write about England, damn it. And so I stood my ground after Village Green failed commercially, if not artistically. I was quite stubborn and I’m still quite stubborn.” The tracks were not all designed for release as singles and some space for longer guitar solos was “negotiated”. “We didn’t really win any battles with the record company. You never do. They say they’ll do something, then they bend your arm and do what they want. So I just thought I would make the record I want to make,” said Davies. The hour-long radio version, together with a longer stage show, has been adapted in collaboration with the playwright and musician Paul Sirett, with whom Davies wrote the show Come Dancing. The cast includes Lee Ross as Arthur, Davies’s real-life brother-in-law, and Rosie Cavaliero as his beloved elder sister, Rose, and there are key songs from the original album, along with other Kinks’ hits Waterloo Sunset and You Really Got Me. It is also likely to come to the stage as a musical in the new year. “It is a play set 50 years ago that is about now,” said Sirett, adding: “Ray is a very important English voice. He can still tell us things we haven’t even spotted about ourselves.” The Davies brothers were born into a large, close-knit family in north London and suffered poverty and bereavement before they achieved fame. Their eldest sister, Rene, a dance hall star, had died suddenly when Ray was 13. “It is a more emotional album for me than Village Green, as it is based on my own family,” said Davies. “Arthur and Rose were a surrogate father and mother to me. Arthur didn’t know the word ‘mentor’ and didn’t know that’s what he was. He was disciplined after his time in the army and it was character-building for me. He thought I was an annoying little bastard but we really missed them. Yet if Arthur had not left for Australia, my brother and I might not have formed the band. He wanted me to get a job and I would have stayed at art school for longer.” The remastered re-release of the original album includes extra tracks that show the genesis of the key musical themes. It also features the solo music that Dave Davies, the band’s lead guitarist, was making at the same time. “I wanted to put out a balanced overview,” said Ray Davies. The brothers notoriously fought throughout the latter part of their careers, but things are on the mend. The inclusion of his brother’s tracks from a solo album that was never released is a sign they are now, as Davies has admitted, if not exactly back together again, then at least “back to our dysfunction”. The Kinks’ musical mood has been called nostalgic, but Davies isn’t keen on the word. He prefers “remembrance” or “melancholy” and also points out his hits All Day and All of the Night and You Really Got Me hardly fit this bill. He does concede though that the sadnesses of his youth “may have had an effect”. “I was traumatised by Rene’s death,” he said. “When I was a kid if you had an issue you kept quiet about it. There was shame. So I didn’t sit down and say I am going to write a melancholy theme. I was sensitive and couldn’t express myself. Then I found music and the outpouring began. I’ll never stop writing because I think of tunes incessantly – it bugs me. They come into my head – literally voices in my head.” When the Kinks toured Australia in 1971, Davies met up again backstage with his brother-in-law Arthur. “He told me he liked my work and that he knew I had written about him,” said Davies. “The overall impression I got was that the trip out to Australia was a success, although Rose didn’t want to go.”
The music that features in a film can be as moving, essential or memorable as any line of dialogue or actor's performance. A great soundtrack often transcends the film it first appeared in, whether it was comprised of pre-recorded songs by known artists, or original tracks that went on to become long-lasting hits.In 2019, film soundtracks have become as synonymous with the Top 10 charts as Ed Sheeran, Drake or Ariana Grande. But before The Greatest Showman and A Star is Born, there have been scores that have become etched into the cultural zeitgeist because they captured moments that spoke to us long after the final credits roll.
Olga Peretyatko (Norina) and Bryn Terfel in the title role of Don Pasquale at the Royal Opera House. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The GuardianOn its polished surface, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale (1843) is a criss-cross of stock comic characters: rich, ageing bachelor-lech; poor, feckless nephew; glamorous minx of a widow; scheming doctor. With its lampooning and cruelty, it isn’t easy to love. How can we laugh when a young woman slaps an old man, a gesture so shocking the music stops, bright harmony and bustling orchestration shriven into abrupt retreat. Discomfort is part of the work’s gleaming weaponry. The Royal Opera’s new production, directed by Damiano Michieletto, conducted by Evelino Pidò and starring one of opera’s all-time greats, the Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, recognised these tensions, at times nastily, at others disarmingly. I warmed to this piece, after long avoidance, for the first time.Michieletto and his designer Paolo Fantin have borrowed from the language of cinema, the go-to source for so many updated opera productions: two this week alone featuring director’s chair, film studio paraphernalia and wheel-on classic cars (see also Rigoletto below). The pinging and dinging of smartphones – even the doddery Don can read an SMS – are absorbed into the aural and visual narrative. Fantin’s skilful set, with neon-outline roof and some clever business with doors, conjures a vulgar world of greed and bad taste, in which Norina – here a makeup artist to the celebs – revels. Soon, in her mock marriage to Pasquale, she’s the one in glitter and furs, steamrolling her “husband”, and his house, into a wholesale makeover.The quartet of singers, not always secure vocally but collegiate as a team, had to work hard in an open set that offered little acoustic support. They interacted deftly around Terfel’s towering, minutely detailed Pasquale, his role debut. As he moves into a new phase of repertoire, his voice remains russety and focused, even when he’s required to manipulate a hand-held puppet and sing a breakneck patter song. His crumpled realisation that he has been duped, that the game of love is over, was lacerating in its pathos.Markus Werba’s leather-jacketed Doctor Malatesta, robust and sly, and Olga Peretyatko in her Royal Opera debut as the gorgeous vixen Norina, appeared to have their own magnetic relationship. What were they up to? She’s supposed to be in love with earnest Ernesto (Ioan Hotea). It all enriched the generic, sour MeToo odour. The production, first seen in Paris earlier this year, is uneven. Yet the music wins out, vibrantly and effervescently. Pidò, a bel canto authority, conducted with crispness and finesse. Donizetti gives little to the chorus (well sung here) but demands much of the orchestra, with lavishly accompanied recitatives and many conspicuous solos. Throughout, the ROH players more than delivered.If Michieletto and co added a few extra strands to Don Pasquale, Glyndebourne tour’s new staging of Verdi’s Rigoletto constructed an entirely different carapace. The tragedy of the hated jester and his beloved daughter, based on Victor Hugo’s Le roi s’amuse, is one of opera’s simpler plots. Christiane Lutz, making her directorial debut in a work that is also a first for Glyndebourne, introduces so many complications that it becomes almost unrecognisable: we’re in 1920s Hollywood, complete with Rigoletto-as-Chaplin, two doppelgängers whose identities are never entirely clear, and a dumbshow enactment suggesting suicide, baby snatching and incest.Matteo Lippi (Duke of Mantua) and Vuvu Mpofu (Gilda) in Glyndebourne’s first ever Rigoletto. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The GuardianLuckily, under the baton of Thomas Blunt, there was sterling quality in the orchestra, chorus and cast, with the baritone Nikoloz Lagvilava magnificent and burly in the title role. Matteo Lippi’s Duke was well judged: loud, brash, showing off those top notes as if they were rippling muscles. Gilda, tenderly sung and acted by Vuvu Mpofu, is often compared to an angel. Accordingly, she wears large white wings (sometimes). Christian Tabakoff’s sets, with lighting by Benedikt Zehm and projections by Anton Trauner, looked attractive, though Rigoletto’s house, where he keeps his daughter under lock and key, had more the feel of an open prison. Good ideas were weighed down by literalness. If all can be streamlined by the time it reaches the main festival, it may work. Catch it on tour, with Donizetti’s softer comedy, L’elisir d’amore, and Handel’s dazzling Rinaldo, until December.In a UK premiere at the Linbury theatre, two outstanding performances, by the soprano Julia Bullock and pianist Cédric Tiberghien, gave unity to a fractured evening. Zauberland, directed by Katie Mitchell, attempts to forge Robert Schumann’s 1844 song cycle Dichterliebe (poems by Heinrich Heine) to new songs by the composer Bernard Foccroulle with texts by Martin Crimp. The starting point is Schumann’s excision, from his original manuscript, of four songs, leaving the 16 we know. This is described in the programme as an “unsolved mystery” though it might well be termed “artist’s prerogative”.Zauberland at the Linbury theatre. Photograph: Patrick BergerWhichever, the Foccroulle-Crimp songs, engaging in themselves – delicate, imagery-rich and often sensuously melismatic – threw no light on the Schumann. A promising storyline involving a young pregnant woman, forced to leave Syria and travel to Germany, is suggested chiefly by atmosphere. Because of poor sightlines in the Linbury I missed most of the action, but Mitchell’s preference for symbolic, patterned repetition meant gaps could be filled by guesswork. Listening to Bullock and Tiberghien, attendant and redundant mysteries aside, made absorbing sense.Star ratings (out of five) Don Pasquale ★★★★ Rigoletto ★★★ Zauberland ★★★ * Don Pasquale is at the Royal Opera House, London, until 2 November * Rigoletto is at Glyndebourne, East Sussex, until 2 November, then tours to Canterbury, Milton Keynes, Liverpool, Woking and Norwich until 7 December
The original line-up of the Sugababes have confirmed they will release new music in 2020, 20 years after their first album.Appearing on The Graham Norton Show last night (18 October), Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy revealed that they have been in the studio.
Michael Hutchence swore supermodel girlfriend Helena Christensen to secrecy about an injury that left him with permanent brain damage.The late singer/songwriter, who died by suicide in 1997, was punched by a taxi driver outside of a Copenhagen restaurant in 1995, leading to two years of “sudden mood swings and temper outbursts”.