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Reviews / ‘This is awesome’- Asaf Sirkis and Renzo Spiteri delight audience at town hall

Asaf Sirkis and Renzo Spiteri in the Lerwick Town Hall on Saturday: 'a form of telepathy'. All photos: Jonathan Bulter

I REALLY wasn’t sure if I was going to be particularly entertained while driving into Lerwick for the Jazz and World Sounds gig at the town hall on Saturday night, admits Shetland News reviewer Carol Jamieson.

After all, it was just two drummers, no melodies or chords or lyrics!? It turned out to be a fantastic, vibrant and exciting night. I felt my music knuckles deserved the virtual rapping I inflicted on them, oh me of little faith.

Walking into the hall itself created quite an impression as there was an outstanding array of mostly untuned instruments to greet us as we entered.

A full drum kit, assorted djembes, congas, bongos, cymbals, chimes, beat box, rattles, sound module, touch sensitive pad, computer, hand pan and schlagwerk, plus many instruments hidden from view, I’m sure. This wonderful array belonged to Renzo, and he played every one.

After the customary and jovial introduction from Jeff Merrifield (who was not well but came anyway as he said he wouldn’t have missed this one for the world), we started off the evening with a trio relatively new to the music scene in Shetland.

Cellist Sophie Wishart of the Eyland Project.

The Eyland Project features Renzo Spiteri, Sophie Wishart on cello and David Boyter on guitar and mandolin. What a peaceful way to start, beautiful chords from the guitar and soft creative cello playing merged beautifully with the percussion. Even though there was an impressive and varied input from Renzo, it at no time overshadowed the acoustic guitar and cello.

An array of unusual sounds, rhythms, chords and ideas kept our interest while at the same time creating a soothing and gentle slide into the evening, lulling us into a false sense of security.

The next part of the evening featured guest artist Asaf Sirkis and the participants of the afternoon workshop (which seemed to be half the audience) with a prepared piece for our entertainment.

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Essentially a call and echo from the pros and the guests, with much vim and energy and chances within the piece for individuals to shine.

The remaining part of the show was given over to the main act, Asaf Sirkis and Renzo Spiteri.

These two musicians only met the night before the concert but this lack of opportunity to rehearse did not come across in the music.

They seemed to have that intangible skill that only musicians who know their craft and have been playing for a very long time have, a form of telepathy.  Sirkis came across as affable and confident as did Renzo, who both carried the night forward with warmth and laughter.

A high point for me was the piece for kit and hand pan, a tuned dome with an ethereal quality which transported you somewhere else. None of these pieces had names as they were all being created in front of our eyes and ears. This meant we were not sure what to expect next and neither did they.

Each piece full of exciting interchangeable rhythms which, just as you are beginning to feel a pulse, changed again. No point trying to tap your foot along with the music.  With an amazing array of dynamics and range of speed, feel and style, they never at any point gave the impression they were not sure what to do next.  It was as if they had an unending supply of ideas in their heads and were not afraid to use them.

Asaf stayed on the kit creating a solid and technically astounding base, while Renzo, a bit like a butterfly, flitted seamlessly from one instrument to another.

The staging becomes naturally dramatic in the Town Hall as, not only do we have this fabulous hall to enjoy, but as it gets darker, the figures in the stained glass gradually disappear creating an alternate mood spontaneously.

Renzo is a subtle and sensitive musician who, when playing with others, keeps the supportive and professional role. It was great to hear him really let rip during the second half of the concert.

The two men complimented and listened to each other beautifully, taking turns to spark off new sections in the music with ease and expertise. One audience was overheard saying “This is awesome”.

The build-up to the finish was indeed awesome. A huge crescendo was created from practically nothing, taking the rhythms higher and higher, faster and faster, almost stratospherically to a fantastic flourish of phenomenal playing.

The delighted audience whooped and shouted for more which we got in the form of a gorgeous little quiet encore on the touch screen iPad and kit. A direct contrast to what we just heard but equally moving and emotive.

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