Percussion Spectacular (FringeTIX – too late)
Nick Parnell @ Flinders Street Baptist Church
9:00pm, Sat 17 Mar 2007
It’s a surprisingly big crowd for 9pm, for a Saturday night, for St Patrick’s Day. Of course, this performance is in the Flinders Street Baptist Church, so I can’t help thinking that a fair percentage of the crowd are good church-going folk.
Nick Parnell takes to the stage and hides behind a small collection of exotic drums. His opening is very low key, but quickly builds up with obvious African tribal influences & variable tempo. The rain sets in, Nick moves across to the marimba and glockenspiel. These sounds are not what we’re used to from typical Fringe percussion – they’re rich, vibrant, imbued with a sense of significance. Parnell controls the volume wonderfully well, raising us up and down a number of times until the rain finally peters out of “Marimba Song”.
It was a really, really good start.
Unfortunately, the performance then took a turn for the worse; Parnell was joined by his piano accompaniment (that’s not the bad bit), and he shifted across onto the vibraphone. I won’t beat around the bush – I don’t like the vibraphone. It sounds too clean, too pure. So when they proceeded to churn through three Gershwin Preludes and a chunk of Chopin, followed by a bit of Bach, I was just wondering when the vibraphonics were going to stop. With every piece, I was thinking “this would sound much better if that was played with the piano.” Sure, the actual act of playing was physically impressive, but the resultant noise was… less than wonderful.
Luckily, we return to the drums eventually for a self-penned piece – and things immediately begin to look up. Over to the marimba again, with a humorous aside for “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, before finally returning to the fucking vibraphone.
Unlike (say) Ben Walsh’s shows, the unfortunately mis-named Percussion Spectacular isn’t a exhibition of raw speed, but more of passionate and measured precision. Even more unfortunately for me, then, that so much of the performance leant on the vibraphone.