Nothing is more inspiring than beautifully crafted cinema or as inspiring as meaningful music. Jim Jarmusch and his quirky, quiet, poetic films have put a spell on me. The music he chooses for his films are equally spellbinding and his soundtracks are works of art in their own right. I could not possibly miss an evening dedicated to the music in his films. It must have been hard for David Coulter, the artistic director to make a choice when preparing a set list for these 2 evenings at the Barbican theatre in London. Where would you start? I guess the choice of available talents to impersonate the music eventually dictated what to do next.
The performance was quite a treat starting with the band hidden by a gauze-like material onto which moving images taken from Jarmusch’s films were projected. Jarmusch has used a lot of black and white in his visually stunning creations and gigantic black and white images dominate the screen tonight: smoke drifts by and a deck of cards, high rises and fire escapes. Eventually Camille O’Sullivan’s golden, gigantic silhouette is briefly projected on the makeshift screen while she sings Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put A Spell On You. Her voice both metaphorically and literally brings the screen down and it feels like a veil has been removed from my eyes and a silencer /cotton from my ears, I can finally see the band on stage and live the music to the full. O’Sullivan is impressive with her effortless singing, the perfect voice for the evening. The singers and the soundtracks smoothly change in front of our eyes with the core band remaining on stage throughout the evening. Terry Edwards on sax, percussions and trumpet and Dave Okumu at the guitar create both the backbone for this evening’s performance and a series of electrifying solos, though the biggest applause goes to the Ethiopian maestro Mulatu Astatke and his xylophone while playing Yekermo Sew from the gentle Broken Flowers. My personal favourite of the evening was Kirin J Callinan playing Mystery Train. His aggressive look, sunglasses, kilt and Stetson hat and super cocky performance were impressive both in the vocals and in his guitar playing, transmuting into the sound of a spaceship taking off in front of our eyes. He apparently personifies the crazy Australian bravado but exudes shedloads of talent. Impressive. I catch a glimpse of him while driving by at the end of the concert, he is walking out of the stage door in is stage persona, amongst Franz Ferdinand fans probably waiting for Kapranos, too shell shocked to react. Perfect.
Kapranos’ presence on stage is also a hit, bleached hair, immaculate shirt and complexion. He has all the well-known numbers to sing, starting with an understated Memphis Train taken from Jarmusch’s Mystery Train, of course. Understated is also the presence of Jolie Holland, ex Be Good Tanyas. Beautiful voice, duetting on acoustic guitar with Okumu for the soundtrack to the magical, dazed Dead Man. The images from the films drift at the back of my mind, and I am sure it is a similar experience for all Jarmusch’s fans but tonight the visual side of his cinematic oeuvre is irrelevant, this is all about the music and we have witnessed some seriously impressive performances tonight. Camille O’Sullivan proves that she would have been a wicked front woman in a rock/grunge/psychedelic band while performing Black Angels’ You on the Run. Okunu dazzles the audience while taking on Neil Young’s beautiful Dead Man theme song. Kapranos’ whispered rendition of Tom Wait’s Jockey Full of Bourbon proves as scary as the original, “the house is on fire, the kids are all alone…”
Jim Jarmusch Revisited Barbican Theatre, London 20 September 2017