Friday, 23 August 2013

Review THIS

If you believe the hype you have to believe a backlash too. Any criticism we get, is always stuff we've already criticised ourselves.
“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”
Oscar Wilde

My latest gig with piano virtuoso GrayDog was reviewed in Venue.
I’ve always been of a romantic disposition, so I imagine myself as a loner, or an outsider – a voice in the wilderness, if you like.
People who know me find this hilarious.

As a person who goes on to a stage and says:

“Look at me, listen to my stories and opinions and likes and dislikes and

look   at   me   lovemelovemeloveme VALIDATE ME”,

AND expects to be paid for it, I have to entertain the possibility (and sometimes deal with the reality) that people will say:

“No.  Fuck off.”

So, I should be flattered that most of my reviews have been positive.  (Most of the ones I’ve read, anyway.)
Many, positive or not, have focussed on my accent, which is a bit frustrating when there’s a lot more going on besides.  Gig reviews, in general, often focus on the superficial: appearance and image.  One review of a gig I played, also in Venue, accused me of being “borderline offensive to anyone with a genuine affinity for Hip hop”, as if my whole set was just a cheap parody of Hip Hop.  The writer even acknowledged some of my references, which, while not obscure, display at least some knowledge of the subject, both on my part and his.  The more unlikely references are probably more interesting, but didn’t fit the “white-boy-raps-to-take-the-piss-out-of-rap” angle he seemed to be going for.
I will admit I found that particular review “borderline offensive”.

I get compared to people I am like only in the most superficial ways, and I think this is usually because reviewers know little about Hip Hop.  So, they see a white man rapping and think Eminem, or hear an English accent rapping and think The Streets.  

Also, I shouldn’t be too surprised if people sometimes don’t know when I’m being serious or flippant – I don’t like to spell it out too much, I prefer to let people decide for themselves.  And, most of the time, I really enjoy it.  It’s good to keep the audience thinking, and it gives critics something to write about.
(I have written extensively about this idea, for example here and here.)

When we set out to make something artistic, we usually don’t know what we’re doing.  We discover along the way, and that’s why life is art, because it seems like that’s how everything works, to some extent.
Good reviews in a magazine are fine, but it’s not as significant as the visceral experience of being on stage, pouring out thoughts, and feeling that people are interested and entertained.
I don’t know how people will react, that’s one of the most exciting things about performing, and that’s why after all these years, I still like going to play somewhere I am not known.
It’s a risk, an adventure, and like a lot of our most worthwhile pursuits, it is hard work* at times.
It’s nice that a reviewer likes what I am doing, but it’s little compared to the person who cried at a song I played. 
Mostly, I’ve had very positive reviews, but some are just so poorly-written that the praise – or criticism – is slightly diminished.  I’d like to claim to not care at all, but I’m too honest to paint pretty pictures.  It seems like the best way to react is to enjoy the good reviews, use them in promotional literature, (to convince others that I’m liked by people whose opinions matter), and not worry about the (mercifully few) bad ones.
The criticism of my friends and peers is far more revealing than that of someone who knows much less about me and what I do.

An earlier Venue review gave us a good tag-line and was one of the few that was succinct and complimentary enough to use on a poster.  So that was nice.

Still, this new review, in Venue, seems to get it.  I am very flattered at being described as “eccentric”.  (I am less flattered to be described as English, but that’s a story for another time…)

So, I’d say that’s me 2-1 up…thanks to Tony Benjamin for writing it. 
And Massive Thanks to him for not mentioning my accent.



(*In the sense of artwork, not job work.
Work has to do with purpose, a job is to pay the bills.
That’s why I never say that music is my job.  It’s my work, it’s what I am here for.)

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