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NIGEL-BITES


NIGEL WHEREVER WE FIND HIM


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Nigel has a new manager, Manfred Seipt. Welcome to the roller coaster, Manfred ! Hold on tight and don't look down !  If anybody wants to book Nigel for a concert or has any other business concerns with Nigel, contact Manfred at the address on Concerts and Links.               

             MUTUAL APPRECIATION: NIGEL KENNEDY AND JACK GREALISH

Villa star Jack Grealish has added a fresh string to his bow - a new appreciation for the talent required to play classical music.

And it's all thanks to the mercurial violinist and outspoken Villa fan Nigel Kennedy taking him under his wing.

With musical nods to influences as diverse as Vivaldi, Stephane Grappelli, Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple, Kennedy's latest concert at Symphony Hall was a heady introduction to the demands of the classical stage for the 20-year-old midfielder.

And it was all laced together with some fancy Nigel Kennedy footwork that was like a cross between the Ali shuffle and Michael Jackson’s moonwalk.

In short, this was a brilliant concert that had everything, from Kennedy's praise for the late Sir Terry Wogan to his latest dig at the "geezer" (Villa chairman Randy Lerner).

All that was missing was the chance to talk about a rare win for his beloved Aston Villa.

Never mind. There in the audience, in Nigel’s talent-spotting eyes, was the fleet-footed future of the club – 20-year-old midfielder Jack Grealish.

Only the day before, last year’s finalists Villa had lost 0-4 in the FA Cup to Manchester City to compound their status as odds-on favourites to get relegated.

But Kennedy offered a note of optimism for the capacity crowd.

“I know Jack is somewhere in the audience,” said Kennedy.

“He is the most talented player we’ve had since Sid Cowans (a European Cup winner during his first spell from 1976-85 before returning in 1988-91).

“Jack just glides around the pitch.

“If he’d played yesterday (against Manchester City) we would have won the game!”

After watching the gig with his parents and brother, Kevin, Jack admitted he had been amazed watching  Kennedy's skills from his seat in the stalls just a dozen rows from the stage.

The midfielder was in trouble earlier this season after going to a nightclub following Villa’s defeat at Everton, but watching Kennedy felt like a giant step towards maturity.

“This is the first classical concert I’ve been to,” said Jack.

“It’s unbelievable how talented Nigel is and how he has so much faith in the people around him.

“The show is not just all about him and he doesn’t want to hog all of the limelight.

“I think all sportsmen could relate to the passion for what he does and it’s great to see.

“You have got to try to become the best that you can be and Nigel shows how thousands of hours of practice always pays off.

“It’s amazing to think that at 59 he still thinks he’s getting better.

“A footballer’s career is much shorter than that."

                 
                                 Nigel.....................................and Jack Grealish

Kennedy began the show playing a harmonica, before saying “Anyone can play it better than me” and handing it to a fan on the front row.

“It’s fantastic to be back here in Birmingham,” he added. “It’s the best place and it’s just so nice to erase the memory of yesterday (Villa’s defeat).

“We have got to get the right hands on the club.”

Kennedy went on to pepper the entire concert with Villa references.

Following his interview with me for the Birmingham Mail, Kennedy again called on the "geezer" (chairman Randy Lerner) to sell Villa for what he'd paid for it, so that it might end up in British hands.

Kennedy offered to do a deal with someone on the front row, whereby if he put £5 in to a bid, he would add his own fiver.

During the first half of the show, vividly dedicated to the music of Stephane Grappelli, Isaac Stern and Mark O’Connor, Kennedy kept a jacket over his yellow Villa away shirt.

Playing his recently reinvented version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons in the second half, he kept his Villa home kit covered up until the end, when he briefly dropped his jacket’s shoulders to reveal he was wearing Gabby Agbonlahor’s No 11 shirt – another local lad he has genuine belief in as a player and whom he believes should not be sold.

Kennedy certainly punched the air many more times than Villa have scored in the league this season (18 goals).

A woman in the audience shouted to him: “If you can do it, Villa should do it!”

To which Kennedy replied: “And there’s 11 of them.”

Sometimes Kennedy used a mic, but at other times he was less audible without it.

At one point he put it on the floor saying the batteries were running low... and comparing that to how he had felt at Villa Park.

“We invented football and belief,” he said of the club once led by Football League founder William McGregor,  before seemingly adding during one of his less audible moments: “And no club is now no more sorry and inconsequential than us.”

                  

Aside from football, Kennedy’s best line came while introducing one-drum percussionist Adam Czerwinski, for whom the size of his kit reflected “the state of the British economy.”

The concert included Kennedy’s version of Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix, a blast of Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple and a tribute to guitarist Django Reinhardt (such a favourite of former Slade star Noddy Holder that he named his son after him).

But it was the sheer brilliance of his multi-flavoured, soaring and swirling reworking of The Four Seasons that earned him his standing ovation.

The finale included Kennedy leading everyone off stage right, only for them to re-enter the stage from the left still playing in a conga.

Three hours after it began, the show finally ended at 10.30pm with two heartfelt tributes – one to the late and “lovely” Sir Terry Wogan, whom Kennedy said had supported and interviewed him several times, and another to an influential Polish musician who had also died that same morning.

(The Birmingham  Mail and The Birmingham Post each published a review of the concert at Symphony Hall. I chose Graham Young’s review in the Mail, because I felt it gave a better idea of what it felt like to be at the concert. You can view it in its original setting by clicking HERE. You can read Richard Bratby’s review in the Post by clicking HERE . Be prepared to search !)             


               REVIEW: NIGEL KENNEDY, BRIDGEWATER HALL, MANCHESTER

REVISITING a piece of music which propelled you to international stardom may, for most musicians, seem like step too far. But Nigel Kennedy has never been most musicians.

The maverick virtuoso totally charmed a packed Bridgewater Hall, the second date of a UK tour, in which he is showcasing his reinterpretation of Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

His initial recording remains one of the biggest selling classical albums in history.

But Kennedy's logic is unquestionable. As someone who has played the The Four Seasons thousands of times no-one is in a better position to reinterpret the work for a modern audience.

Before the traditionalists get too apoplectic, the main movements of The Four Seasons remains untouched. Kennedy has cleverly written in interludes and linking sections which combine everything from jazz, world music and even a touch of Star Spangled Banner, Jimi Hendrix style.

Kennedy is a wonderful contradiction on stage. It's hard to believe that this superlative musician who takes an almost childlike delight in performing will be 60 in December.

With his fluorescent trainers, mismatched socks - one claret, one blue naturally - and Aston Villa tops (the yellow away top with the MG sponsorship for the first half, more recent Acorns sponsored home shirt for the second) he is a stark contrast to the formally dressed musicians playing with him.

                             

There is a joy in watching Kennedy perform. He clearly revels in working with his fellow musicians. Fist pumps are shared liberally at the end of each piece and smiles regularly break out as one of the players does something special.

For the audience there is plenty of matey banter. Music for Kennedy is something to enjoy and immerse yourself in, not something to regard as a dispassionate museum piece.

The first half of the show features four pieces written by Kennedy as dedications to musicians who have inspired him - guitarist Dla Jarka, and violinists Stephane Grapelli, Isaac Stern and Mark O'Connor.  Kennedy is backed by his own band including members of his jazz quintet, supplemented by further strings and piano. 

The results are an eclectic set of melodies, heavily jazz influenced, which display astonishing technical ability from all concerned and are also hugely engaging.

For the the second half it is down to the main business of the night. Knowing that The Four Seasons has been given the Kennedy treatment adds a little more excitement into the hall - what has he done? Will it work?

Oh yes, it works - and how. Vivaldi lovers need not despair, the essential work remains. But Kennedy has injected an added sense of playfulness and some contemporary references to add greater depth.

A standing ovation showed what the Bridgwater Hall audience thought.

As a bonus we got Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze and some Bach as an encore.

Nigel Kennedy - maverick, innovator, entertainer and – dare one say – genius ?

                       (John Anson wrote this review for The Lancashire Telegraph)


                           

                 (To read a note or two on Nigel's concert at the Colston Hall, click HERE )

                                  (To read a review of the concert, click HERE )
 


               

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