On stage last night...
REVIEWS - MUSIC - JOE JACKSON & TODD RUNDGREN *** - USHER HALL, EDINBURGH
ETHEL are a New York-based contemporary string quartet in the Brodsky/Balanescu vein. Their impressive opening set encompassed a couple of terse, sparky compositions and Indian, Celtic and blues influences.
Joe Jackson took the first solo slot. Although never one to knowingly stick to one style of music, Jackson generally gravitated to the new wave pop which has provided him with his smattering of hits, with only a couple of exceptions. Steppin' Out remains a classy, evocative, feelgood song, while a cover of music hall standard Who's Your Lady Friend? was suitably end-of-the-pier. Despite its jocularity, Jackson gave a rather formal performance - during his best-loved track, Is She Really Going Out With Him?, the audience lagged a bit with their vocal participation, causing Jackson to shake his head like a disappointed teacher.
There was little hint of discipline about Todd Rundgren's set. His spontaneous, dishevelled, even feral performance was explained by his admission that "I don't have a drop of Scottish blood in me, but I do have a few drops of Scotch". He switched acoustic guitar for piano and was generally better behaved behind the keys, although he did manage to make a meal out of the lovely simplicity of Hello It's Me.
A satisfying middle ground was reached when all parties came together in the closing stages of the concert and Ethel's arrangements added an intriguing dimension.