There must be some pressure being the only classical artists at the iTunes festival, but a few nights ago prolific musicians Lang Lang and 2Cellos rose to the challenge and provided the Roundhouse audience with an evening of staggeringly virtuosic music.
The Festival has returned to Camden offering a programme of esteemed musicians and popular bands from 1st to 31st July. Foo Fighters, Paul Simon, Adele, Linkin Park and Beady Eye have all performed this year. There is a lovely feel of inclusivity, thanks to the method of ticket distribution – every ticket is free and must be won through various competitions. As it happened my brother and a good friend both won pairs of tickets to see Lang Lang’s showcase, so along with my tickets we were a friendly group of six.
Supporting act 2Cellos arrived on stage for their hugely entertaining set. Duo Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser have gained enormous popularity through YouTube with their eccentric, invigorating and wildly passionate renditions of famous pop songs. These two boys are very talented players, but also astoundingly good at arranging, presenting reworked pop songs that in some cases are much more interesting than the originals. My favourite piece of the night was the brilliant adaptation of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which they performed with infectious energy; some of the U2 numbers were also breathtaking.
Lang Lang is certainly a showman... for most of the opening piece he was almost entirely covered by dramatic stage smoke... a fun effect, but it unfortunately prevented anyone from seeing him for a while. He played a Liszt-heavy programme, a composer whom he obviously deeply respects - he even said to the obedient audience at the start “we will enjoy Liszt together”!
After gaining my Grade 4 piano as a child with some difficulty, and desperately struggling with those relentless scales, I have a real admiration for pianists. To hear Lang Lang, considered by many to be the best pianist in the world, perform such a complex repertoire with confidence and faultless technique was breathtaking, and the hollow venue that is the Roundhouse only made the experience more atmospheric. Lang Lang gives every single note its just significance, his hands dancing balletically across the keys so fluently that it is difficult to believe he only has two hands.
I left feeling I had experienced two stunning performances in a truly unique setting. The iTunes Festival tickets are sadly all allocated for this year, but get in there early next year for the chance to see some awesome concerts, and let’s be honest, everything tastes better when it’s free.
More info on itunes festival website here.