REVIEW: Adrian Utley's Guitar Orchestra St George's Bristol 8/10
ANYONE disliking electric guitars would have been well advised to avoid St George's as Adrian Utley, probably best known as the guitarist with Portishead, led his 20-strong Guitar Orchestra, aided by keyboards and percussion, through Terry Riley's famous minimalist concert piece In C.
Riley wrote In C in 1964, synchronistically the same year Adrian Utley's trusty Fender Jazzmaster was made. Adrian Utley fields himself and 19 other electric guitarists, including local heroes Denny Ilett (Moscow Drug Club), Neil Smith (Rita Lynch Band, Tamco, the Liftmen) and Kit Morgan (most other Bristol bands!). There are four keyboard players, including Charles Hazlewood.
It falls to Tony Orrell (The Pushy Doctors, Spirit Level, Gas Giants) to keep the regular metronomic pulse throughout the whole piece.
In C consists of 53 short, numbered musical phrases, lasting from half a beat to 32 beats; each phrase may be repeated a number of times.
Each musician has control over which phrase he or she plays.
The performance directions state that the group should try to stay within two to three phrases of each other. The phrases must be played in order.
Each performance is very different, but the improvised element is in the timing of the phrases, not the actual notes played.
The musicians must listen to each other.
As the piece progresses the sonic shape shifts and the interplay between the musicians becomes evident.
Perhaps some of the guitarists veered too much towards the lower register, lessening the harmonic impact of the performance.
Music to meditate to, music to contemplate rather than passionately engage with perhaps – but a brave and rewarding performance well appreciated by the audience.