A triumph from beginning to end from Chilly Gonzales

Canadian pianist and self defined musical genius (tongue in cheek, nowadays anyway) Chilly Gonzales was joined by the Kaiser Quartett as they graced the stage of the Philharmonie on Saturday night.

Over the years Gonzales has been a bit of a musical chameleon going from an alternative rock band in the 90s to an electro artist once he arrived in Germany under the name Gonzales. He also managed to fit some rapping in amongst all that, although he has found his niche as a pop-classical songwriter and pianist nowadays.

Gonzales has found more commercial success in producing and featuring on albums from the likes of Fiest, Drake and even Daft Punk, than he has on his solo work but that is not to say his own albums without merit or acclaim.

On Saturday night he took the Philharmonie on a musical journey through Jazz, hip hop, waltz and everything in between.

With a drummer and his German based quartet by his side, Gonzales walked on to the stage with his purple smoking jacket and slippers looking somewhat dishevelled and a tad manic, just as some people like their composers to look, with that feeling that they are on the edge of sanity or as some may say genius.

After a couple of classical chamber numbers to begin with, Gonzales then asked the audience to insert our own rap in our heads to “Sample This” as he mixed with the tempo before challenging the string quartet to play like a machine on “Knight Moves” “Hopefully there will be poetry in our failure” he joked. Failure there was not, but poetry in motion there was.

The evening was like a music class you wish every child could have at school as he simply broke down the difference of minor and major chords with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” in minor, turning it into a dirge.

He injected humour into every aspect of the evening even proclaiming he wanted to be amused himself during the set, so got up from the piano and lay down in front of the quartet whilst they serenade him.

The quartet themselves were as much part of the show as Gonzales as he got them to recreate a dance beat with simple intonations, including tremolo, staccato and pizzicato, claiming the drummer was all but obsolete before he came in with a drum solo and, to not be out done, played the trumpet at the same time, a drumpet as Gonzales called him.

Gonzales’ latest album “Chambers” was written for venues such as the Philharmonie and tracks such as the brooding and haunting “Odessa” epitomizes his modern day chamber music before moving onto the more pensive “Advantage Points”.

For an evening full of memorable moments it was during “Armellodie” that might have left us with one of the most enduring, as they turned off all the house lights leaving the whole venue in complete darkness with the exception of the exit signs. This left you to fully concentrate on the music without any distractions or humour, just the mesmerizing sound emanating from the stage.

Gonzales talked of how he regretted describing himself as a musical genius when he released his first album but he thought he may as well say it before anyone else did. Although I’m not going to call him a genius, this show was masterfully crafted from the transition of genres to the use of humour and sheer musicianship. A triumph from beginning to end.


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