Live review: Holger Czukay at the Roundhouse, 14 May 09

Sorry for the complete absence of Golf Ball activity over the last few months - as usual, Giroscope, gardening and work have been taking up my time (in roughly reverse order) and whilst there has been rock and roll activity behind the scenes, it's been badly documented, to say the least.

Over the next month or so I will be getting the Golf Ball back on tee (as it were) with some new stuff including links to the entire Brother Typewriter back catalogue for download, some remix action, effects pedal reviews, and more.

But first, a review of only my second live gig of the year (the first being Eliza Carthy at Chelmsford Civic Theatre last weekend, which I went to just so my wife would have someone to go with really, but in the end it was a very enjoyable gig - I should review that one too really, and I might do soon.) Actually if I count Tony Benn at Ipswich Corn Exchange in March, it's my third gig of the year - Tony was great but didn't play any music, which is why I left him out.

Anyway, this was my first London gig of the year, and it was at the Roundhouse. A one-off performance by former Can bassist Holger Czukay, once in the seventies, now in his seventies. And absolutely brilliant. He shuffled on stage, engaged in some very witty banter with the audience concerning some of his old record deals, and his early video efforts (around the time of his Movies LP; at which time we thought "great. A video retrospective". There were some extremely weird and witty video clips which he apparently recorded for the Can DVD compilation, and a video for the Can song "Mushroom" which featured some amazing old footage of the band.

The rest of the gig was audio-based and featured a huge range of pieces, from bangin' techno and drum and bass (his most recent stuff I think) through weird ethno-lounge-jazz pop through to augmented classical music (he did an amazing piece where he layered avant-garde keyboards over a Schubert string quartet recording - potentially disastrous in theory but brilliant in practice). Some of the tracks were just played back from CD, some featured additional keyboards, electric guitar (a very cool model - looked like a Vox - the same weird shaped guitar that Ian Curtis used on the "Love Will Tear Us Apart" video) or French horn.

There was one new piece featuring (recorded) vocals from Holger's wife against an ominous rumbling backdrop - a song about the London Underground - that apparently went wrong; one of the CDs was dodgy and kept glitching. (Holger said the rehearsal of the piece had been fine - it may have been that the increased humidity in the Roundhouse once the audience was there caused the CD player to skip? Seems a likely explanation). Anyway the weird thing is, the glitch version sounded great - if it hadn't been for Holger shaking his head and attempting a restart, no-one would have known.

There was also a remix of a Stockhausen piece (he "hated remixes" apparently; Holger was his pupil back in the 50s) and some early archive Can material (probably from the same period as the "Delay 1968" album): all fascinating stuff.

SO, brilliant even when it went "wrong": that was my verdict on the gig, and the friends I went with agreed. If Holger Czukay ever plays again in the UK, my advice is to pawn body parts to see him if necessary; you won't regret it.