The Southbank Meltdown is an annual event at the Southbank Centre that is curated by an artist. Last year it was curated by Ornette Coleman. If anything the event is always fresh, challenging, revealing and provocative. This year’s event has included Islamic Punks, Cajun Legends, Blues Hobos to a talent contest from hell, songs about cricket and politics, a tribute to Kate McGarrigle and special performances by Broken Bells, Seasick Steve and Elvis Costello. Yes, all this and more has been curated by none other than folk legend Richard Thompson!
For eleven days in June, songwriting and guitar-playing legend Richard Thompson will take over Southbank Centre’s riverside venues and spaces as the 17th director of Meltdown. A diverse programme of concerts – covering everything from blues, Cajun, folk and soul to punk, indie and classical – talks and films, reflecting the eclectic tastes, influences and passions of an artist whose restless versatility has kept him consistently creative throughout his forty year career. For those who relish Meltdown’s unique mix of legendary names and rising stars, unlikely collaborations and those un-missable multi-artist bills, Richard Thompson’s Meltdown will not disappoint.
Artists include: Beausoleil; Broken Bells; Eliza Carthy; Martin Carthy; Clare and The Reasons; Codeine Velvet Club; Elvis Costello; Boris Grebenshikov; Lisa Hannigan; Neil Hannon; Emmylou Harris; John Etheridge; Fishermen’s Friends; Fun-DA-mental; Joe Henry; The Kominas; Bettye LaVette; Anna McGarrigle; Field Music; Paolo Nutini; Ollabelle; Beth Orton; Judith Owen; Raihan; Tom Robinson; Linda Ronstadt (TBC); Harry Shearer; Martin Simpson; Emily Smith; Seasick Steve; Al Thawra; Danny Thompson; Kami Thompson; Teddy Thompson; Martha Wainwright; Loudon Wainwright III; Rufus Wainwright; Krystle Warren; Villagers and, of course, the Meltdown director himself, who hosts two concerts and guests throughout.
Blowing apart any lazy pre-conceptions about an artist who first achieved recognition as a folk rock pioneer, Richard Thompson’s Meltdown choices reveal the diverse tastes and interests of an internationally respected artist who divides his time between Los Angeles and London, and is as at home watching test cricket at Lords as he is on the palm-treed boulevards of Santa Monica. While his Meltdown programme reveals a deep interest in politics and a passion for song writing talent on both sides of the Atlantic, it also reveals a fascination with the burgeoning Asian-American punk scene, a love of classical music and an address book that includes rock stars, folk legends and maverick filmmakers alike.
Opening Southbank Centre’s iconic, artist-curated Festival on Friday 11 June, will be the UK premiere of Cabaret of Souls, the wickedly observed musical chronicle of a talent contest set in hell. Written and composed by Richard Thompson himself, this ambitious, 80-minute song cycle was commissioned by the International Society of Bassists and written for his long-time friend and bassist Danny Thompson, who is featured, alongside Judith Owen, Debra Dobkin, Peter Zorn, Spinal Tap and The Simpsons Harry Shearer and a 10-piece string section.
Saturday 12 June* sees a host of friends and family line up for a Celebration of Kate McGarrigle, who died in January 2010. This very special event, put together by legendary producer Joe Boyd, includes performances by Lisa Hannigan; Emmylou Harris; Lily Lanken; Sylvain Lanken; Anna McGarrigle; Jenni Muldaur, Beth Orton, Linda Ronstadt; Kami Thompson; Linda Thompson; Richard Thompson; Teddy Thompson; Martha Wainwright; Rufus Wainwright and Krystle Warren. In The Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Fratellis frontman Jon Lawler’s deliciously noirish collaboration with burlesque singer Lou Hickey play as Codeine Velvet Club, with support from Thomas White. Master musician, songwriter and long-time Americana touchstone, Joe Henry plays the Purcell Room.
(*4.30pm start, due to US vs. England World Cup match, which will be screened in the Clore Ballroom)
On Sunday 13 June in a night that demonstrates the breadth of our Meltdown director’s interests, the Philharmonia Orchestra play the work of Alan Hovhannes, one of Richard Thompson’s favourite composers, in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and spellbinding Missouri-born singer-songwriter Krystle Warren performs in the Purcell Room.
On Monday 14 June, Steven Gene Wold, aka the inimitable Seasick Steve, will take over the stage of the Royal Festival Hall for an evening of the best hobo blues, while Martin Simpson, John Etheridge and special guests celebrate the guitar in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Across the foyer in the Purcell Room will be a screening of Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man, the remarkable film of the life and death of bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell, with a sparkling score composed and performed by Richard Thompson.
Following critical acclaim for his number one album Sunny Side Up, sell-out tours and support stints with the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Paul Weller, the prodigiously talented 23 year-old Paisley-born singer songwriter Paolo Nutini, performs on the stage of the Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday 15 June. Sunderland’s finest Field Music play in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, with support from Connor O’Brien’s spellbinding new band Villagers.
On Wednesday 16 June, in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Cajun dancehall legends Beausoleil from Lafayette, Louisiana prove our director’s belief that Cajun music “is the best thing to dance to on Planet Earth”. Ollabelle, the New York five-piece folk music group named after the influential Appalachian songwriter Ola Belle Reed, perform in the Purcell Room with support from Emily Smith.
On Thursday 17 June, three of Richard’s abiding passions – cricket, politics and soul music – are celebrated in one night across three venues. A month on from the UK General Election, An Evening of Political Song in the Royal Festival Hall (the venue of New Labour’s 1997 victory celebrations) features performances of protest and rebellion by Harry Shearer (The Simpsons, Spinal Tap), Tom Robinson, Neil Hannon, Jez Lowe, Eliza Carthy, Martin Carthy, Boris Grebenshikov and Emily Smith. In the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Neil Hannon and his new band perform music from Duckworth Lewis Method (the best album about cricket ever recorded…), supported by The Leisure Society’s beguiling and peculiarly English strain of Americana. Bettye LaVette, one of our director’s favourite soul singers, performs in the Purcell Room.
Friday 18 June, sees an intriguing double bill in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, featuring the visionary musician, composer and producer Van Dyke Parks and Clare Muldaur Manchon’s hotly tipped Clare and The Reasons. Van Dyke Parks, who has worked with everyone from Grace Kelly and The Beach Boys to Joanna Newsom, mentored Richard when he first moved to Los Angeles. This will be the first time he will be performing his own songs in the UK.
In a special afternoon performance on Saturday 19 June, that demonstrates his versatility as a performer and interpreter of songs, Thompson reprises his hugely popular and ludicrously ambitious show 1000 Years of Popular Song, which has seen him perform everything from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas to Nelly Furtado’s Maneater, via Gilbert & Sullivan and The Kinks. Later on that evening, in the same venue, Richard Thompson performs with long-time friend and collaborator Loudon Wainwright III as Loud and Rich, in a night of classic songs from their respective back catalogues, and jokes about who can produce the most musical offspring. Turning up the volume in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Taqwacore Punk Night sees performances by two bands – The Kominas and Al Thawra – from the burgeoning Islamic punk scene in the US, together with UK-based band Fun-DA-mental. In the Purcell Room, a screening of Taqwa Core – The Birth of Punk Islam will be followed by a Q&A on the scene that is a musical expression of a generation of American Muslims caught between the puritanical interpretation of Islam of their parents and the liberal morality and seductive consumerism of the West. Meanwhile, Fisherman’s Friends – the traditional Cornish band who recently landed a £1m record deal from Universal – perform for FREE in The Clore Ballroom at 1pm and 6.30pm. (N.B. Full programme of FREE events to be announced soon)
Sunday 20 June sees a rare chance to catch Richard’s long-time friend and collaborator Elvis Costello with his guitar and a hatful of some of the finest songs ever written, perform solo in the Royal Festival Hall. Richard’s daughter Kami Thompson supports on this very special evening. In the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre Artist in Residence Oliver Coates
String Quartet play some of Richard’s favourite classical works, including Dutilleux Ainsi la Nuit, Ravel Duo for Violin and Cello and Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8.
In a hotly-anticipated event that sees the unlikely, and very Meltdown pairing of surrealist hip-hop producer Danger Mouse and The Shin’s front man James Mercer, the Festival closes on Monday 21 June, with Broken Bells’ first live show since the release of their critically acclaimed self-titled debut album.
A pair of tickets to see Seasick Steve on Monday 14th June 2010
An Evening of Political Song on Thursday 17th June 2010: Drawing upon a rich history of political song, a special multi-artist bill compered by and featuring Harry Shearer (The Simpsons, Spinal Tap) as well as Neil Hannon, Tom Robinson, Eliza Carthy, Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson, Boris Grebenshikov, Jez Lowe, Emily Smith, Claribel Alegria and more performs a night of songs in the key of revolution and protest.
For a chance to win a pair of tickets to one of these events please email me with your choice event in the subject title, so either: “Seasick Steve” or “Political Song”. If you don’t mind going to either then enter both in the title. Tickets can be collected on the night of the performance. Your email should include your full name and telephone number. The two winners details will be passed onto the Southbank Centre.
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All entries must be received by
Saturday 12thFriday 11th June 2010 latest.