Red Hot Chili Peppers, O2 Arena, London — ‘Intense’

Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the O2 Arena © Steve Gillett/Livepix

Even in the throes of their various drug problems, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ core duo of Anthony Kiedis and Michael “Flea” Balzary managed to radiate a really Californian athleticism. Now clean and approaching their mid-fifties, the pair appear preposterously buff, like ageing Hollywood action heroes cranking out sequels in a hit franchise.

The final time I saw them play, in a small venue debuting their mediocre 2011 album I’m with You, they seemed to be going through the motions. But the 1st of 3 shows at the O2 Arena brought a transformation. The energy on display was unsurprising: like a Tom Cruise film, any Chili Peppers performance requires a lot of operating around. The distinction was the staging’s verve and imagination.

It opened with bassist Flea on stage with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and drummer Chad Smith. The trio struck up a wild jam, joined midway via by singer Kiedis. Then the lithe guitar intro to “Can’t Stop” cut by way of the noise and an immense grid of glowing lights descended over the stage and audience. Composed of 800 free of charge-hanging lights, it proceeded to rise up and down, undulate and kind various colours and patterns in time to the music, a coup de théâtre made by the arena-spectacle organization Tait.

Four new tracks have been played from their newest release The Getaway, a decent album filleted for its greatest moments. Outbreaks of jamming recurred between songs, a tribute to the option culture from which the band emerged in the 1980s. Then a familiar anthem would begin up, the likes of “Under the Bridge” or “Californication”, testament to their transformation into massive beasts of US arena rock.

It was an intense, skilful overall performance. Flea’s bass-playing was a blur of fingers and slapping thumb, a muscular rhythmic counterpart to Kiedis’s crisp vocals. Smith was a powerhouse drummer, hurling sticks into the audience in between beats. Klinghoffer played guitar as even though in an electric storm, the heroics of an axe wizard fighting for mastery more than the elemental forces at his fingertips.

A neat interpolation of Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up” into “Give It Away” showed the manage that underlay the high-voltage showmanship. Flea’s acrobatic handstand stroll back to his spot for the encore summed up an evening of upended expectations. Gravity, like time, is just yet another obstacle to overcome for California’s immortals.

Section: Arts

Justin Bieber, O2 Arena, London — ‘Remote’

Justin Bieber on stage in his ‘Purpose’ tour © Pieter-Jan Vanstockstraeten/Photonews by means of Getty Images

The final time Justin Bieber played the O2 Arena he kept his audience waiting two hours prior to gracing the stage. Young children wept, parents fretted about the last train, tempers frayed. Taxis circled the domed venue in its obscure peninsula fastness like vultures: a bonanza for London’s cabbies, but a blow for brand Bieber.

Three years later the controversial Canadian heartthrob is back at the O2 Arena for his “Purpose” tour. The first of six nights started on time. Lights strafed an elaborate stage structure, five backing musicians struck up a dramatic intro, dancers performed acrobatic moves. Then the primary attraction created his entry suspended in a Perspex box, captive in the public eye. He was singing “Mark My Words” and writing illegible messages in pen on the see-by way of walls of his cage.

His new tour is named soon after his most recent album Objective, a 4m-selling hit with a surprisingly powerful set of songs. These who dismiss the 22-year-old as a bratty purveyor of buying-mall schmaltz are out of date. The new Bieber, the one who starts shows on time, has been repurposed as a charming R&ampB-pop crooner. However for all his newfound credibility he seemed only fitfully engaged at the O2.

The show was designed as slick arena entertainment, a busily choreographed affair with subsidiary stages, hydraulic platforms and extravagant visuals and lighting. Bieber cut an oddly remote figure amid the action. The former kid star exhibited neither nervous energy nor pleasure at being on stage. As an alternative he came across as a brooding but rather blank figure.

Some of his street-dance methods with the 12-strong troupe of dancers were crisp, others had been lackadaisical. His singing was great when the microphone was switched on, a persuasive higher tenor. But he produced tiny work to hide the fact that he was miming at other instances, typically throughout strenuous dance-pop numbers, a widespread sufficient arena-pop deceit despite the fact that normally practised with far more artfulness. Songs ended with him turning his back on the audience as though broadcasting his apartness.

A 20-minute interval threatened to sabotage any momentum that had been constructed up, as did a long drum solo that the singer permitted himself shortly right after resuming (“You guys nonetheless with me tonight?”). But the second half brought a far more committed Bieber.

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“I really feel that I just drunk a bunch of caffeine and I’m prepared to go,” he announced, belatedly coming to life with a caffeinated, drum-heavy version of his old puppy-really like hit “Baby”. He departed from the script to quiz fans in the front row about the meaning of enjoy, only to acquire such unsatisfactory responses — they mostly loved him — that one particular almost felt sorry for the philosophical Bieber.

Objective’s title track followed, sung with genuine feeling but the sense of connection was fleeting. “Make confident you focus on your goal,” he declared following an encore with “Sorry”, a catchy, curiously apt note of contrition with which to finish. If only Bieber had followed his personal suggestions more consistently tonight.

Section: Arts

Neil Young, 02 Arena, London — ‘Mesmerising’

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JUNE 05: Neil Young performs at The SSE Hydro on June 5, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Gilmore/Redferns)

Neil Young performs on the Earth tour. Photo: Ross Gilmore/Redferns

“You commence down in the Shire, and by the end, you are in the crater of Mount Doom.” So stated Micah Nelson final year of Neil Young’s newest, epic touring show. (With each other with his brother Lukas, this son of Willie fronts the fantastic man’s backing group, Guarantee of the Actual.) Even if the 70-year-old Canadian is nobody’s idea of a retiring hobbit, the Tolkien analogy isn’t a bad one for a mighty, usually mesmerising yarn of a gig that sweeps from heart-sore balladry to whammy-hammering electric guitar jams — with a touch of Manichean panto thrown in.

It begins with two figures scattering seeds (“hurrah!”) later, 3 other folks in hazmat gear spray pesticides (“boo!”). Apart from the title track of 2015’s GM-crops-trashing, corporate-greed-bashing idea album The Monsanto Years and the splashy, rowdy newie “Seed Justice”, that’s the extent of the agitprop, though the star’s eco-sympathies frame the opening movingly. A downlight reveals Young, solo, at a stand-up piano. That famously reedy voice — maybe more watery, but still clear — launches into “After the Gold Rush” with an elder’s conviction. The updated lyric “Look at Mother Nature on the run, in the 21st century” rings out over Young’s filigree playing. “Heart of Gold”, on acoustic guitar, has a stoic’s dignity and an old rebel’s defiance. A pump organ, meanwhile, provides a ceremonial air to the lamentation “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)”.

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With his band now on board, “Out on the Weekend” seems much more leisurely drive than drifter’s escape: the incongruous patter of congas from the percussionist has me imagining Young and new squeeze Daryl Hannah pootling down to Acapulco. In reality, this mellow middle section is rather too sweetened with soft-concentrate nostalgia. It is a relief when Young straps on his Gretsch White Falcon for the baleful stew of “Alabama”, and the jamming genuinely gets below way.

The riffing becomes really immersive once Young switches to “Old Black”, his 1953 Les Paul. “Love to Burn” manages to be thunderous and meditative “Mansion on the Hill” giddily consoling the seldom heard “Revolution Blues” nevertheless menacing and magnificently bitter. As with the best journeys, it is not the arriving that counts but the acquiring there.

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Section: Arts

Mariah Carey, O2 Arena, London — ‘Magnificently elaborate singing’

Mariah Carey on stage at the O2 Arena, London. Photo: Neil Lupin/Redferns/Getty©Neil Lupin/Redferns/Getty

Mariah Carey on stage at the O2 Arena, London. Photo: Neil Lupin/Redferns/Getty

Mariah Carey made specifically the entrance you would anticipate from one of the ideal-promoting divas of all time, namely reclining in a sparkly bodysuit on a chaise longue that was carried on stage by a phalanx of male dancers with torsos so ripped even the muscles had muscle tissues. She was singing a dance remix of “Fantasy”, one of her 18 US quantity one hits.

A giddy atmosphere swept the O2 Arena, as orchidaceous as a Mariah-endorsed perfume. Fans filmed her and argued with other folks who were carrying out the exact same for blocking their view. “Emotions”, another US quantity one particular, found her unleashing her trademark whistle register, hand on ear, eyes shut, voice rising to the extremely threshold of what the human auditory technique can perceive. The evolutionary function was unclear — warn the tribe of danger? Attract mates? Repel them? — but the reaction at the O2 was unambiguous. Each episode of whistle singing met with a excellent swell of adulation.


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All this was vastly entertaining — but there was a issue. The staging appeared to have been devised for the Las Vegas residency that Carey started last year and is due to continue until September.

Caesar’s Palace, exactly where she is appearing, is about a single fifth smaller sized than the O2 Arena. Unlike the singer’s magnificently elaborate singing, the show needed to scale up. There was no reside footage on screens for those seated far away in the gods. The dancers had been impressive but there have been only six of them. The imperial chaise longue at the starting turned out to be the only prop.

At least the Las Vegas residency meant Carey was in very good voice. Mainly drawn from her #1 to Infinity compilation, the songs discovered her cooing honeyed blandishments and performing dynamic trills and runs, aided by 3 backing singers who did the heavy lifting. Carey held the spotlight — but her vocalising was not mere showboating. The extravagant feelings in her songs require extravagant singing, as shown by the way she seized the piano ballad “Hero” by the scruff of the neck with a fierce passage of gospel uplift.

Her backing band, led by veteran session man “Big” Jim Wright on the grand piano, was tight, switching impeccably from a medley of old-college R&ampB/hip-hop hits to a sequence of ballads. The latter had a soulful supper-club really feel, not the slushy Broadway orchestrations of the recorded versions. But at 90 minutes’ length and lacking premium spectacle, the encounter was not as splendid as you would hope from 1 of the best-promoting divas of all time.

World tour continues to Could two,

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Section: Arts

Madonna, O2 Arena, London — ‘A spectacular show of strength’

Madonna on stage at the O2 Arena. Photo: Neil Lupin/Redferns©Neil Lupin/Redferns

Madonna on stage at the O2 Arena. Photo: Neil Lupin/Redferns

Of the two sides of Madonna revealed on her most current album Rebel Heart — a single a lachrymose balladeer pleading “Just hold me although I cry my eyes out”, the other an imperious sex-crazed queen snarling “Go difficult or go home” — which would predominate at the O2 Arena?

The phalanx of men kneeling on the stage in Game of Thrones warrior garb at the start, every single holding a cross and bowing as they awaited her entrance, was a hint of what to anticipate. And so it proved, with Madonna descending from on high in a suspended cage, singing the blaring dance track “Iconic” with unblinking iciness, wearing a red outfit with black fake fur lining that gave her the look of a ninja-educated tsarina.


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What followed was a show of superstar invincibility. It was a U-turn of sorts, ending the efforts that Madonna has made in middle age to craft a far more sympathetic, human character for herself, as with Rebel Heart’s weepy ballads. That campaign reached an inadvertent nadir at the Brit Awards earlier this year, when a botched try to get rid of a cape triggered the dazed singer to be dragged down a staircase. Tonight’s show, at the extremely very same venue, identified her coming to her senses. Fallibility is for civilians.

The two-and-a-quarter-hour concert was incident-packed and superbly executed. Higher production values palliated the regal ticket rates the singer charges. Her choreography with 17 backing dancers was expertly detailed, from the Japanese-themed moves that added lethal grace to the crude snarl of “Bitch, I’m Madonna” to a sacrilegious pole-dancing nuns routine in “Holy Water”: salacious but impeccably timed, like the Las Vegas theatrics that the show so effectively mines.

The highlight was “Music”, set as a 1930s Busby Berkeley musical, with the backing band neatly switching in between jazz and thumping beats, and Madonna in a sparkly flapper’s minidress interrupting the song to execute a witty burlesque routine. Self-pitying tear-jerkers had been recast as acts of resilience, such as “Heartbreak City”, which ended with the singer pushing a villainous man off the top of a spiral staircase with the diva’s cry of “You abandoned me!” The model was the indomitable Edith Piaf, to whom Madonna paid tribute with a boldly warbled version of “La Vie en rose”.

Old hits had been imaginatively overhauled. “Burning Up”, from her 1983 debut, an early instance of her unabashed nature (“I have no shame!”), became a wild rocker, Madonna on her knees pretending to shred a guitar. “Material Girl” was rebooted as hard-edged electro. A straight rendition of “Like a Prayer” followed an emotional but defiant speech about Aids: “We shall overcome!” So, in a various context, she did tonight. The Rebel Heart tour turns a muddled album into a spectacular show of strength.

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Section: Arts