Klimt Experience art show in Florence

Klimt Experience

Gustav Klimt’s Tree of Life with added visual effects  – copyright: Klimt Experience

For Klimt enthusiasts travelling to or based in Florence who don’t already know, the Tuscan capital is currently home to an impressive art show devoted to the viennese painter, one of the most prominent artists linked to the Vienna Secession movement.

Hosted in the deconsecrated Church of Santo Stefano al Ponte, Klimt Experience – as the title suggests – is not an ordinary art exhibition. After a series of panels that introduce the painter and the historical and socio-cultural context in which he worked between the 19th and the 20th century, visitors are immediately and almost literally invited to immerse themselves into Klimt’s world.

The first part of the show takes visitors through a journey to discover some among Klimt’s most famous artworks thanks to a particular multimedia device. Taking turns, people grab a seat and put on a pair of Oculus Samsung Gear VR goggles. These glasses virtually teleport to a room on whose walls hang eight Klimt masterpieces –  half of these are associated to symbols that act as ‘keys’. Each key unlocks a door which leads visitors to four different but equally magical universes. People can expect to ‘enter’ the likes of The Kiss or The Tree of Life and feel as if they actually were in the paintings, surrounded by golden doodles, walking on a carpet of flowers or paddling in a small wooden boat on a tranquil lake. It’s a truly emotional voyage which awakens all senses, an interactive event which however doesn’t stop there.

Part two of the show sees visitors walking into the church-turned-museum where another kind of experience awaits. Having to climb a few steps means people don’t realise straight away what they will find once inside. The surprise upon reaching the hall is such it almost feels like unwrapping a present. Here art meets technology as a selection of more than 700 images between Klimt’s finest works, photographs of the artist and and 3D recreations of Vienna in the early 1900s are projected onto huge screens. The closer visitors get, the more they will feel as if they were embraced by those digital pictures, once again allowing for an full-on experience. The outstanding quality of the video, the eye for detail and the music chosen as the soundtrack and accurately matched to each image make for an unmissable event. Watching Hygieia enveloped by flames or the snakes coming to life and floating around the woman in Nuda Veritas while listening to opera compositions by classical music giants like Verdi or Vivaldi is a real treat, a feast for both the eyes and the ears.

Overall, this event is an opportunity to look at Klimt’s work from a different perspective and while traditional exhibtion-goers may raise their eyebrows at first, they will be glad they gave Klimt Experience a chance later.

Due to the overwhelming success with both the public and the critics, the exhibition closing date has been extended to May 1. Booking ahead is highly recommended to avoid long queues. Click here to find out more.

Kings of Leon – Walls | Album review

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Real or imaginary, necessary or unnecessary. In this day and age when both figurative and actual walls are raised and brought down at the same time, Kings of Leon take their stance and opt for them to come down. Starting off from the artwork on their latest record cover, which sees the Followills’ faces emerging from what seems like a milky pool. The faces have their immediately recognisable traits but they’ve been reproduced in a way that makes them look more feminine. The album title itself is an acronym which stands for We Are Like Love Songs.

In the eternal fight between consistency and reinvention, where do KOL stand? The band seem to have progressively opened up over the years and willing to embrace their transformation. The success they have enjoyed so far has had a tangible impact on their trademark sound, but it hasn’t completely compromised it.

Initially, WALLS seems split in two distinct halves. This impression however soon changes and it becomes apparent that the record’s structure metaphorically resembles a snake that sheds its skin – similarly here Kings of Leon gradually strip themselves of their edgier nature to reveal a more vulnerable side. The first few tracks are energetic, moderately fast-paced, radio-friendly songs packed with catchy choruses and hypnotising guitar licks then midway through the pace begins to slow down, exception made for Eyes On You which gives the album its final spark with its quick rhythm sequence and melody. The band’s walls have come down and the last track Walls, a ballad, seems to confirm this.

Apart from a general less heavy sound, the only novelty of the record comes from Muchacho, with its Latin-American soul, a musical style which nevertheless doesn’t go too far from the familiar Southern rock genre that characterised KOL’s early repertoire. Otherwise, rock anthems like Waste a Moment or Find Me, or even the tender Conversation Piece are pretty much what could be expected from the band. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, this only means Kings of Leon have created their very own sound and they like it as it is. In fact, WALLS is a good, solid album which will most likely sound even better live.

Verdict: 3,5 / 5

Tracklist:

  1. Waste a Moment
  2. Reverend
  3. Around the World
  4. Find Me
  5. Over
  6. Muchacho
  7. Conversation Piece
  8. Eyes On You
  9. Wild
  10. Walls

WALLS is out now, for more information on Kings of Leon and upcoming shows click here.

Watch the video for Waste a Moment:

White Lies – Friends | Album review

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When White Lies appeared on the music scene in 2009 they gave way to a post-punk revival, riding the wave of the success that similar bands had obtained a few years earlier. A great deal of comments was made on the likeness between the sound of the London-born trio and that of acts such as Editors, Interpol and even Joy Division but McVeigh and co always denied having ever drawn inspiration from those groups. Either way, the melodies and lyrics of their previous work were indeed fairly obscure.

Three years after their last record, White Lies come back with Friends. The title may be the first sign of a real change for the band – while in Ritual, for instance, White Lies sang of Strangers and in Big TV they were Getting Even, this new effort may be an attempt to finally open up and present that ‘more uplifting’ sound they claimed to be producing. However, it seems the band still has a long way to go before it gets there – much like for the figures in the maze depicted on the album cover, the road ahead looks uncertain and full of tricks. If anything, the intent is clear and in spite of the possible dead ends they might run into they are at least trying.

The songs contained in Friends are endowed with infectious guitar riffs, feel-good electronic keyboard patterns and choruses that turn the songs into little anthems and create a curious 80s-like indie-pop sound. The fact that the band recorded this album in Bryan Ferry’s studio may have played a significant role. Summer Didn’t Change a Thing is probably the most representative of this slightly different sound – its catchy chord progression and refrain give the impression of a more carefree attitude reminiscing of classic summer vibes that appropriately fit the song’s title. An analogous upbeat, light-hearted tune also features in all the other tracks.

White Lies’ distinctive dark ambience nonetheless still features prominently, affecting not only the melody but also the lyrics. The recurrent, interlaced themes of love, loss, fear still seem to be the band’s major source of inspiration. What appears to have changed is the way they now express these feelings, with words that go straight to the point and have lost their past evocative power. Whichever direction White Lies are taking, it looks like they’re at a crossroads. The result is an enjoyable hybrid that will still please fans and probably gain new followers too.

Verdict: 3/5

Tracklist:

  1. Take It Out On Me
  2. Morning in LA
  3. Hold Back Your Love
  4. Don’t Want To Feel It All
  5. Is My Love Enough?
  6. Summer Didn’t Change a Thing
  7. Swing
  8. Come On
  9. Right Place
  10. Don’t Fall

Friends is out now, for more information on White Lies and upcoming shows click here.

Hokusai, Hiroshige and Utamaro at the Royal Palace of Milan | Exhibition review

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Katsushika Hokusai – Bullfinch and Weeping Cherry, from the series “Small Flowers” (about 1832).

Anyone who has ever wanted to see the likes of the Tōeizan temple in Tokyo, the Cloud Hanging Bridge at Mount Gyōdō in Ashikaga or the Amida Waterfall at the end of the Kiso Road can now do so at the exhibition dedicated to the masters of ukiyo-e – Hokusai, Hiroshige and Utamaro – which will be open to visitors at the Royal Palace of Milan until the end of January 2017.

The exhibition is another significant cultural event that celebrates this year’s 150th anniversary of the first Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Japan and Italy. A selection of more than two-hundred works have been arranged across eleven rooms divided into five main sectionsLandscapes and famous places: Hokusai and Hiroshige; Literary tradition and famous views: Hokusai; ‘Natural’ rivals: Hokusai and Hiroshige; Utamaro: beauty and sensuality and Manga: Hokusai as teacher – which will take visitors on a journey through one of the most artistically inspired and commercially thriving eras in Japanese decorative arts.

The display provides an unprecedented opportunity to marvel at many wonders past and present, real or imagined, created by nature or by mankind, as seen through the eyes of Hokusai, Hiroshige and Utamaro who, each with his own sensitivity, used their skills to produce and publicise that imagery which has now become immediately recognisable worldwide. Stemming from the increasingly popular trend according to which people should enjoy life to the fullest because of its ephemerality, the source of inspiration behind the ‘images of the floating world’ crafted during the Edo period soon proved to be so successful that it started to be exploited for trade purposes too. In fact, if today we can admire works like Fifty-three stations of the Tōkaidō, One hundred poems by one hundred poets explained by the nurse, Bullfinch and Weeping Cherry or Precocious Girl it’s also because they responded to specific requirements of the printmaking market.

A useful audio guide included in the entrance fee will provide visitors with an insight of the historical, social and economic context in which the colour woodblock prints were devised, giving precious information about the techniques that were adopted or developed, explaining how the different artists expressed themselves and what consequences all this had. A short film enables viewers to get a glimpse of the long, painstaking process involving woodblock printing. The exhibition is well organised and is almost faultless, the only flaw being that only one room has actually been devoted to Utamaro’s work. Otherwise, a sure winner.

Verdict: •••••

Hokusai, Hiroshige, Utamaro is on until 29th January 2017 at the Royal Palace of Milan, for further information visit here.

Coldplay at Wembley Stadium (15 June) | Live review

Chris Martin

A famous quote says that “Every day in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed” and similarly every night after an event at the Wembley Stadium people know they need to run for their life if they want to catch the last train. That’s why on the last notes of Up&Up, thousands of Coldplay fans quickly grabbed their belongings before darting to the nearest tube station.

The journey back home may seem for many to take forever, but they all agree this gig was worth all the troubles. They know it well – they bought their tickets months ago, they awaited, anticipated. The night finally came and so did hordes of supporters. Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland and Will Champion struck chords, rolled the drums, sang with passion. Coldplay came and delivered an unforgettable show, doing what they do best. In two hours the band entertained the crowd, shared thoughts and memories, paid homage to David Bowie and Muhammad Ali, honoured the victims of the Orlando attack.

Known for their strong advocacy of equal rights, Coldplay never miss a chance to promote their ideals and each of their concerts is a tribute to love in all its forms. Chris Martin and co. don’t need gimmicks to spice up their performances, but they always get away with such tricks as huge bouncing balloons, fireworks and confetti because who can deny they’re cool? It would be unfair to say that Charlie Brown would have been just as engaging as if it hadn’t involved the whole venue bursting with thousands of coloured wristbands. What about Clocks, with its signature laser show? The heartfelt Fix You never fails to move and excite the audience but it was even more powerful because the whole stadium lighted up as if everyone was holding a lighter, like in the old days. Call it Magic, you can’t go wrong.

The only letdown may be that Coldplay’s past hits weren’t given enough space. While it is obvious that the setlist mainly featured tracks from the latest album, it’s hard to understand why the band decided to play that many songs from their possibly least-loved record Ghost Stories. Other than that, fans who will be seeing Coldplay live in the next few days can expect to live the Adventure of a Lifetime – just hope for A Sky Full of Stars. In any case, a memorable fun-filled night.

Verdict: ••••

For further information on Coldplay, visit here.

David Gilmour to play Pompeii this July

Brace yourselves, the news that has been on everybody’s mouth over the past few hours is now official – you can check Gilmour’s website if you still can’t believe it.

After much speculation, evidence first came yesterday when Dario Franceschini, Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, twitted that an agreement had been reached and that as a result Pink Floyd’s guitarist David Gilmour will play two shows in Pompeii on July 7 and July 8.

Further confirmation was given today as a message on the musician’s website validates this statement and invites fans to ‘watch the space’ for further information. For the moment all we know is that Gilmour will perform two shows this summer, in the same amphitheatre which he already graced with his fellow bandmates 45 years ago.

It is highly probable that both gigs will sell-out in no time. In fact, these two concerts will undeniably be unlike any other. While any live performance by Gilmour is arguably likely to prove successful, seeing the musician play in the same spot where he played with the other Pink Floyd members in 1971 will definitely be a special experience for some.
Some others, however, claim these gigs are almost ‘blasphemous’ as Pink Floyd’s 1971 concert, filmed and turned into a film by Adrian Maben, entered the legend and is seen as insuperable.

Whatever the case, this upcoming event is now a reality. Gilmour will feature a leg of his world tour in support of his latest record Rattle That Lock in Pompeii and, according to some unconfirmed reports, these two dates should also be filmed to be subsequently released as a DVD. Although these performances might be overshadowed by the weight of history, the scenario in which Gilmour will play once (twice) more is guaranteed to provide for another unforgettable experience anyway.

Foo Fighters dispel ‘splitting up’ rumours

Dave Grohl’s heartfelt performance of The Beatles’ Blackbird during the 88th Academy Awards ceremony last Sunday night sparked rumours of a possible Foo Fighters split. As the band’s lead singer gave a mesmerising rendition of the Fab Four’s song in honour of this and last year’s notable deaths in the cinema industry, reporters started buzzing about an alleged break-up, causing a stir and leaving thousands of fans panicking.

Amidst the speculation, further alert came directly from the Foos themselves as they released a brief statement on Tuesday, twitting that there would be an ‘official band announcement tomorrow night (last night)’. The cryptic message left media and supporters alike in a complete chaos as everyone was left wondering what was going to happen.
NME went as far as envisaging various outcomes – the band may split up, take a well-deserved hiatus while each member pursued a solo career or instead go on a tour, make a new record… such was the frenzy and the confusion in which Grohl and co. plunged everyone.

Last night, however, as promised the Foo Fighters finally broke the silence and posted a video on YouTube in which Dave Grohl decides to ‘break free’ and ‘set them (his fellow bandmates) free’. Grohl discusses going solo and considers alternative musical paths as he embraces a new image and a new sound, while Smear, Mendel, Hawkins and Shiflett also face the consequences and reinvent themselves by starting to look at a potential new lead singer. The list for Grohl’s substitute is long and comprises many – from Eddie Vedder to Phil Collins – but at last the choice is made and Nick Lachey comes out to sing Everlong.

It is but a gag though, as the video finishes with a message from the Foos saying ‘For the millionth time, we’re not breaking up. And nobody’s going fucking solo!’. Fans can therefore breathe a sigh of relief, at least for the time being. Surely something’s cooking, but we’re not to know about it yet.