six lethargies, keaton henson, 20th july 2018
what can i say about this that hasn’t been said more eloquently by people much smarter than me? arriving in the room, with the smoke and the haze which felt like an old bookshop with the dust slightly disturbed, it felt like it was supposed to, if that makes sense. we weren’t allowed to take photos during the concert, so that’s why i only have the three. i admit i don’t know anything about classical music, and this is the first orchestra i’ve ever seen perform, so at times i was lost, and at times a little bored (which i can only apologise for). there were moments of pure beauty, refrains that just, if i could play them on repeat i would never get sick of them. there were moments where the music turned to something more brutal, the idea to invoke anxiety and the feelings it causes. the whole premise of the concert was to address anxiety and trauma, and the leaflets left on seats even mentioned that should you feel it was all too much, to call an usher and there would be a quiet room. i didn’t see anyone leave, but my eyes were fixed to the stage, not really looking around. the audience clapped after the first three lethargies, but after that things bled more into one another and it was hard to tell where one started and another ended. the ending of the concert itself was abrupt and unexpected, it seemed both that it had gone on for hours and that no time had passed at all. there was a standing ovation that went on for ages, and then keaton arrived on stage and the crowd went absolutely wild. one person (and i love whoever this was) shouted out ‘we love you keaton’, echoing the thoughts of everyone in the room. keaton left, but the standing ovation continued, so out he came again (and i can’t imagine how much that took for him, given his anxiety) and he was there for mere seconds, but to see him, to know he actually exists and isn’t some kind of collective hallucination producing such beautiful music, was amazing, and it was an honour to just be able to realise that this amazing bambi-gangly man was real and that his work had been realised.
afterwards, we sat outside the barbican and the night was warm and the lakes and pools were surrounded by people talking about what they’d seen and heard. it was nice to find people who listened to him, because, as the booklet i bought about the concert said, his fans tend to carry the same anxieties he does, so i think it’s fair to say, some of us don’t get out much. he’d brought us together and created something beautiful and shared.
if this tours, and i think it’s supposed to, i’d really recommend seeing it. i would warn for people with epilepsy or sensitivity to flashing lights, during the third movement the lights strobe dramatically and as i was struggling with a migraine i had to cover my eyes as it was, so for someone who is triggered by flashing lights it would be probably quite dangerous. that was the only bit i really didn’t like, but other than that, i would love to have it as a record, to play in the background as i do other things, because i did notice that about myself, as much as i tried to pay attention to the stage, i did find myself drifting, maybe because i do spend so much of my time listening to music whilst doing other things, whether it’s reading or writing or just browsing the internet. i’ve managed to program my brain into some kind of hyperactive beast, unable to focus on one thing at a time. in total, it was only an hour and a half long, and was definitely worth the trip to london. i feel honoured to have seen it, and so lucky to have seen keaton, and to see his work come to fruition.
whatever he does next, i’m sure it’s going to be even more amazing.