Northern lights | 16 August 2018

The Rembrandt show at the National Galleries of Scotland (until 14 October) has a problem. A mighty haul of Rembrandt paintings and prints are arrayed against a backdrop that mines the historical impact of his work on British artists and collectors. This is interesting. The problem is that the Rembrandt works are so astounding that

A tragicomic lecture about Gold at Edinburgh Festival

A chilly August in Edinburgh. Colder than it’s been for 20 years and the city looks scruffier than ever. Locked Portakabins squat in elegant stone courtyards. Unused site machinery lies abandoned outside neoclassical museums. Pavements and bridges are scarred by ugly steel roadblocks, and lurid street signs mar the visual harmony of virtually every thoroughfare.

Sensational: Herbie Hancock, at the Edinburgh Festival, reviewed

‘Human beings are in trouble these days,’ says Herbie Hancock, chatting to us between songs. ‘And do you know who can fix it?’ ‘Herbie!’ comes the instant reply, shouted from somewhere in the stalls. Hancock might be a jazz legend, but he’s not quite the Saviour. Kicking off this year’s excellent contemporary music programme at

Real rock

Last weekend, in a pleasant park outside Maidstone, a most unusual rock festival took place. For one thing, it was a rock festival. Despite ‘rock festival’ being a common term for any live music event featuring multiple artists taking place outdoors, there are very few actual rock festivals any more. There are festivals for specific

Simpson, Skinner and socialists

For recovering teetotallers, like me, Thinking Drinkers is the perfect Edinburgh show. On stage, two sprucely dressed actors perform sketches about booze while a team of well-trained ushers race around plying the audience with strong liquor from plastic beakers. In under an hour, I swallowed a can of ale chased by vodka, gin, rum and

The problem with Edinburgh

Edinburgh. Why do comics do it? We almost invariably lose money. Even if you don’t pay for your venue, the cost of accommodation is astronomical — I’ve met Edinburgh natives who pay their annual mortgage with the rent for August. You could conceptualise it as a loss-leader; but there are 1,333 comedy shows this year,

London calling | 10 August 2017

What is the Edinburgh Fringe? It’s a sabbatical, a pit stop, a pause-and-check-the-map opportunity for actors who don’t quite know where to go next. Alison Skilbeck has written a ‘serio-comic celebration’ of Shakespeare and her performance attracts a decent crowd for a show that starts at noon. She plays a fruity-voiced thesp, Artemis Turret, who

Balkan brass

When brass instruments with button-operated valves were introduced in the first half of the 19th century, music-making changed. Once requiring a semi-professional approach, it could now be quickly mastered by large groups of working people. A noisy result were Britain’s colliery bands: but a more spirited upshot was Serbia’s trumpet tradition. Like the colliery bands, Serbian

A familiar Ring

Herbert von Karajan established the Easter Festival in Salzburg 50 years ago with a production of Die Walküre that is now considered legendary. In the sense that legends are rooted in memory, and mythological in substance, that much is true. Which is not to damn it with faint praise. This revival, staged by Vera Nemirova,

Tartan-ing up the arts

Many years ago an arts spokesperson for the SNP launched an extraordinary attack on Scottish Opera, saying, ‘If push comes to shove, if I were arts minister and had to choose between the survival of Gaelic music and Scottish Opera, I would say rich people could always go to Salzburg for lieder and Sydney for

Lloyd Evans

Northern exposure | 11 August 2016

As the festival grows, the good acts are harder to find and the prices keep rising to meet the throngs of showbiz refugees who surge north in the belief that the glory, this year, will be theirs. Arriving at my one-star hovel (no breakfast, no towels, shared bathroom), I was given a security key and

Fringe benefits | 30 June 2016

‘How do we feel about leaving the EU today? Who doesn’t give a fook?’ yelled Oli Sykes of Sheffield’s Bring Me The Horizon — instantly becoming my favourite act of this year’s Glastonbury Festival. Sorry, I’m just not buying the line put out by the Guardian, the BBC, Damon Albarn and the rest of the