Wilko Johnson, On tour
To say that Wilko Johnson has had a remarkable ride these last five years would be an understatement. If we rewind to 2009, many are meeting Wilko for the first time in Oil City Confidential – a documentary about Dr Feelgood in which he reminds the world he’s not just an amazing guitarist, but also an enormously charismatic personality. Better-attended gigs and a part in Game Of Thrones both follow. Then comes diagnosis of inoperable pancreatic cancer, and a dogged refusal to either medicate or stop playing. There’s an album with Roger Daltrey, made in eight days. Then, last year, came an operation and the news that Wilko was now cancer-free. After six months recuperation, it stands to reason that Johnson’s trusty trio are now back doing what they do best. The extraordinary sound of an extraordinary person, Wilko’s beat goes on.
As edgy as it once was, it didn’t take too long for trip-hop – hip-hop’s, narcotic, distorted British cousin – to become domesticated, its styles imported and diluted for a broader appeal. Still, that didn’t necessarily mean that the scene’s heavy-hitters went the same way, particularly Tricky. Prolific, and never shy of an argument, his career has been characterised by quixotic musical strategies, journeys all over the world and longstanding beefs – particularly with Massive Attack, the Bristolian group who were once running mates. Still, in his music, some things remain constant, particularly his commitment to intense, often oppressive emotional landscapes, most effectively created in conjunction with a female vocalist. His current album, Adrian Thaws (the artist’s real name; his debut Maxinquaye was based on his mum’s) keeps up the good work in this respect.
St John At Hackney Church, E5, Sat
Paloma Faith, On tour
A performer unafraid of putting on a show, Paloma Faith is pretty much the Liza Minnelli of her generation. One of the school of British singers that emerged after Amy Winehouse, Faith lacked both the torch song vulnerabilities of Duffy and the emotive vocal chops of Adele. Instead, she’s cultivated a reputation as an all-round entertainer: giving it some among the trad worthies on Later With Jools, but also not averse to hoofing it up London Palladium-style. She is very much her own creature.
Richard Skelton, Salford
Last year, Richard Skelton buried a violin in the ground, digging it up months later and using the instrument’s natural decay to distort his long acoustic drones. Skelton began making music as a way of dealing with the loss of his wife in 2004, and his recordings remain carefully reflective. The connections he makes, though, extend beyond private memory into collective subconscious, seeping into his surroundings via literal interaction with the earth. For this show – Landscape, part of bi-monthly event series Saisonscape – Skelton takes his cues from the changing seasons, with support from Laura Cannell, Rob St John and Joe Snape. He also plays Bexhill-on-Sea (21 Mar) and London (22 Mar).
Islington Mill, Fri
Marius Neset, On tour
With his latest album, Pinball, the 30 year-old Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset took another step toward the podium occupied by the best contemporary saxist-composers on the world jazz scene. Neset is a former student of the UK’s Django Bates (an education that probably sharpened his appetite for grooves with a capricious originality). He barged on to the European jazz circuit with his 2011 debut Golden Xplosion, revealing a combination of Michael Brecker-like sax power, Batesian eccentricity, folk music and Pat Metheny-tinged fusion. This year, Neset won Norway’s revered Spellemannsprisen award for his orchestral album Lion, and on Pinball he returns to a small-band format to play a confection of world music, folk themes and breakneck postbop tunes.
Dvořák’s Piano Concerto, Birmingham
Dvořák is one of the most popular of 19th-century late romantic composers, thanks especially to his Ninth Symphony, From The New World. His late symphonies are regular repertory pieces too, but many of his other orchestral works are not heard as often in concert as they deserve. One of the most intriguing of those neglected scores is the Piano Concerto – easily his most problematic concerto – which gets a rare British airing from the CBSO this week, with Stephen Hough as the soloist and Andris Nelsons conducting. Critics of the work claim that it is more like a symphony than a concerto in the bravura tradition, and that though the piano part is fearsomely difficult, it is not especially rewarding or showy to play. It packs a tremendous dramatic punch, though, and if there’s any combination of pianist and conductor who can bring it all alive, it’s Hough and Nelsons.
Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Wed & Thu