I first heard about the wonderful Erased Tapes label about seven years ago. It was in fact Clemence Godard, the co-founder of and promoter of tonight’s show, Bird on the Wire, who mentioned them to me. Bird on the Wire have the most amazing roster of acts that they promote in London, including Erased Tapes artists Nils Frahm and Olafur Arnalds, along with the War on Drugs, The Tallest Man on Earth and Mac DeMarco. Super cool.
I’ve been dipping in and purchasing or checking out various Erased Tapes artists since then. I tried to start a festival called Third Rail in Reading which another of their contemporary classical acts, A Winged Victory To The Sullen were due to headline. Things didn’t turn out with this festival idea, but that’s another story….
I headed up on the train to London at 6pm on Hallowe’en and realised Chelsea must be playing at home. The fans were starting to make their way to the game. Three bullish, well shod, tanned, bald males were in my carriage. They talked of money, strip clubs, dodgy Russians and John Lennon’s old house in Ascot, which apparently ‘still has the white piano in there’.
We arrived at the London Palladium just in time to miss the support act – literally arrived as the noise of clapping and cheering from main auditorium died down and the bar we had just entered filled up around us. I’ve never been to this theatre before, it’s usually associated with musical variety and televised shows. It is beautiful.
When the lights went down before Olafur Arnalds came on stage, there was no big cheer, just a clearing of throats and an air of expectancy.
His music is ambient, eerie, moving and gorgeous. After the first couple of pieces he stood up, microphone in hand and chatted to us. He asked us all to sing one note ‘last night they sang ”ahhhhh” but because tonight is Hallowe’en I’d like you to sing ‘Oooooh’.
We sang the note – which sounded awesome – 2,000 voices all together. He sampled us and then played it back through the speakers and played along to it. He was joined on stage by three violinists, a cellist and a drummer. There were electric beats too.
He has a lap top, a grand piano plus two upright pianos – pianolas. He told the story of when in Europe on tour, back at one of the hotels there was a ghost piano (a self playing piano) that ‘was playing ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon’.
Here I paused to think….’wow, that is the second reference to John Lennon and ‘Imagine’ I’ve heard in two very different circumstances within the space of a couple of hours tonight – that’s a very famous song for you!’
So, Olafur liked this piano so much he bought two. Then he and a friend spent two years in Iceland, and ‘all my money’ inventing a software he can trigger the two ghost pianos with, while at his grand piano. He gets laughs for his stories. It’s lovely to hear him talk. He mentioned a snowy night in Iceland when he ‘got hit a little bit by a truck’. This meant he could’t play piano for a year and he wondered if he ever would again.
So he toured with his ‘techno band’. ‘Playing techno is easy, you just hit a couple of buttons and everyone is ”yay”.
The ambience and lights were sublime, reflecting the delicacy of the music wonderfully.
He played music from his latest album ‘Re:member’ and it really was perfect for a cold Hallowe’en night in London 2018.