Gig review – Koyaanisqatsi with Go Go Penguin
Hull City Hall
I can’t remember the last time I saw Koyaanisqatsi, Godfrey Reggio’s stunning art house film from the early 1980s. I remember buying it for a friend’s birthday or Christmas present in 1994, so it was way before then. In fact it’s been so long, I feel like I’m watching a different film when it’s screened at Hull City Hall.
The major difference this time is the score. Philip Glass’s seminal soundtrack is absent, replaced by an original live performance by Go Go Penguin. And boy do they earn their money.
The three-piece tackles such a labour intensive work, I’m exhausted for them during some of the full on bits. Or maybe that’s the painkiller kicking in for my broken wisdom tooth. Either way it’s like watching a new film.
When the movie was released, time lapse footage of anything was a rarity. Cities and landscapes on fast forward were a stunning sight, with cars flowing to and from cities like red and white blood cells pumping through a heart. These days I shoot time lapse all the time on my iPad or phone. Back in the days before digital, I imagine the process cost a fortune. Little wonder the movie needed a big backer and few were bigger than Francis Ford Coppola in the days when he was a force to be reckoned with.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of the maestro, but when a sniffy wine salesman shot me down in a Californian vineyard back in 1995 for trying to buy a ’small’ bottle of Coppola’s wine, I’ve had a chip on my shoulder about the name.
(In retrospect the Scooby Doo tee-shirt and Hawaiian shorts probably didn’t help my case in such a buttoned up, conservative vineyard).
Koyaanisqatsi without the Glass score feels like watching Jaws without John Williams’ masterful soundtrack. It’s good but it’s not right.
However, as an accompanying film for a fine chunk of jazz, it works a treat. A shame nobody has shot a homage in Hull to celebrate the City of Culture. (I did film some great time lapses outside the venue in the spring, which almost begs for a highbrow classical score. Great way to pass the time if you love people-watching and are waiting for a friend or relative to arrive).
Did it wow me? Yes and no. Love the film, great new score, but I’ll admit I was sidetracked by earache, and not because of the excellent musicians.
I’m glad I went, but I wouldn’t rush to see it again. Koyaanisqatsi is one of those movies worth a look every few years, or in my case decades, preferably with the original score. I’d like to see Go Go Penguin provide backing for other arthouse classics without much dialogue.
That said, maximum respect to Chris Illingworth (piano), Nick Blacka (double bass) and Rob Turner (drums) for their bold interpretation of a 1983 classic.