John Metcalf Rocks The Emperor’s Palace

Following last week’s observations about Award Ceremonies being blatant exercises in marketing, Our Man In Literature sent a couple of dispatches which are, as usual, eminently quotable:

“I think the book world is worse [than theatre] it seems it’s decided prizes are the only way it can market itself. The most ridiculous award I’ve discovered is the Encore Prize, which is an award for the author who manages-not-to-fuck-up-their-second-book-following-a-reasonably-successful-first.”

He also notes that two years ago the Granta Best Young Novelist list included two unpublished writers; “In [the theatre] world this is like having a prestigious agenda-setting Best Independent Theatre Company list and giving two places to a bunch of students who were half way through devising their first play in some community centre somewhere”.

Anyway, part of the point of writing about Awards Ceremonies was as an excuse to mention having been taken to see John Metcalf perform with his band a couple of months ago. Dullard that I am, I find it easy when dodging The BAFTA’s, The Brits or The Turner Prize, to mutter about art forms whose advertising is other people’s content. “It must be so easy for them” my withered brain thinks, “they’re in cahoots”. Then there’s Metcalf and his great band playing a really strong set in front of an audience we’d be disappointed to pull anywhere on tour – it’s clearly not easy for most people in most circumstances.

There were some fantastic performances that night and some brilliant numbers, but what gave the whole thing an extra edge, that I warrant was unique to the gig we select few saw, was the setting. The venue had recently opened its Christmas show so the band were brewing up a contemporary musical storm beneath the portals of The Emperor’s exotically painted plyboard palace.


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