Director’s cut | 21 September 2017

Much fuss has been made of the title given to Sir Simon Rattle on arrival at the London Symphony Orchestra. Unlike his LSO predecessors — Valery Gergiev, Colin Davis, Michael Tilson Thomas, Claudio Abbado, André Previn — all of whom were engaged as principal conductor, Rattle has been named music director, a position that bears

Arts feature


For many years The Spectator employed a television reviewer who did not own a colour television. Now they have decided to go one better and have asked me to write a piece to mark the tenth anniversary of the iPhone. I have never owned an iPhone. (In the metropolitan media world I inhabit, this is

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LCD Soundsystem: American Dream

Grade: B+ Number one. Everywhere, just about. You have to say that the man has a certain sureness of touch. Hip enough not to be quite mainstream, rock enough not to be quite pop. The knowing nods — to Depeche Mode, Eno, 1970s post-punk and 1980s grandiosity and always, always, Bowie. Fifteen years on from

Fickle fortune | 21 September 2017

Here’s an intriguing thought experiment: could Damien Hirst disappear? By that I mean not the 52-year-old artist himself — that would be sensational indeed — but the vast fame, the huge prices, the hectares of newsprint, profiles, reviews and interviews by the thousand. Could all that just fade from our collective memory into a black

Frills and furbelows

Over the winter of 1859–60, a handsome young man could be seen patrolling the shores of the Gulf of Messina in a rowing boat, skimming the water’s surface with a net. The net’s fine mesh was not designed for fishing, and the young man was not a Sicilian fisherman. He was the 25-year-old German biologist

The icemen cometh

You wouldn’t want to stumble upon the Scythians. Armed with battle-axes, bows and daggers, and covered in fearsome tattoos, the horse-mad nomads ranged the Russian steppe from around 900 to 200 BC, turning squirrels into fur coats and human teeth into earrings. At their mightiest, they controlled territory from the Black Sea to the north


Speech therapy

Oslo opened in the spring of 2016 at a modest venue in New York. It moved to Broadway and this imported version has arrived at the National on its way to a prebooked run at the Harold Pinter Theatre. It’s bound to be a hit because it’s good fun, it gives a knotty political theme


Small wonders

It has been a reasonably good week for peripatetic opera-loving female-underwear fetishists. In La bohème at Covent Garden Musetta slipped out of her knickers and swung them round, as everyone, except me, mentioned in their reviews; and now, in Leeds, in the first of Opera North’s ‘Little Greats’, what laughter the actors in the drama


Loose ends

On Sunday night, Holliday Grainger was on two terrestrial channels at the same time playing a possibly smitten sidekick of a gruff but kindly detective with a beard. Even so, she needn’t worry too much about getting typecast. In BBC1’s Strike, she continued as the immaculately turned-out, London-dwelling Robin, who uses such traditional sleuthing methods


Mothers’ ruin

At the heart of Basic Instincts, the new exhibition at the Foundling Museum in London, is an extraordinarily powerful painting of a mother and baby. At one time the ‘Angel of Mercy’ was sold as a greetings card by its owner, the Yale Center of British Art in Connecticut, presumably intended as something you might


No balls

Borg vs McEnroe is a dramatised account of one of the greatest tennis rivalries of all time — between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe (the clue was always in the title) — that doesn’t hit nearly as hard as it should. It does the job. It gets us from A to B. But it doesn’t


Seeing the light | 21 September 2017

‘You can’t lie… on radio,’ says Liza Tarbuck. The Radio 2 DJ was being interviewed for the network’s birthday portrait, celebrating 50 years since it morphed from the Light Programme into its present status as the UK’s best-loved radio station — with almost 15 million listeners each week. ‘The intimacy of radio dictates you can’t