Chilly Gonzales is on everyone’s and especially the cyberpeople’s lips at the moment – thanks to two guys in robot costumes. So it didn’t come as a surprise that prior to his two London concerts last week, Cadogan Hall was filled with whisperings, if he would at least partly play his song from the forthcoming Daft Punk album. He did. And everyone with a Beethoven-esque brain could actually even hear it – with their mind’s ear. Since he only let his fingers silently touch the keys, which was visible for everyone via the giant screens under the rededicated church’s ceiling and stretching from one side of the stage to the other.
The installation is known as PianoVision and was designed by Berlin artist Nina Rhode aka Ninja Pleasure. It shows Gonzales’ hands from above, coarse grained and in black and white, as if a silent movie’s soundtrack had become the object of portrayal itself. His fingers play the leading role. Sometime they delicately dance over the keys like an arachnid ballet performance, sometimes they gently caress the instrument almost without even touching it and then the next moment they seem to make the screen vibrate with hammering moves. As if evidence was needed at all, when he plays “White Keys”, the audience witnesses that he really stays in the white section only – unlike Minor Fantasy, where the black keys come back into play as an essential element. Apropos, Gonzales’ longest digit has almost exactly the same size as one black key and each hand spans an octave and a half. Without PianoVision, observations like this would not be possible. The projection democratizes the concert by adding the luxury of best view from all seats. Usually the upper part of the body is the only moving part for most audience members when visiting a piano concert, whereas for the hands it looks as if the huge grand piano beast had swallowed them.
PianoVision channels the concentration and makes you focus on the substance. It almost makes one forget that these hands are attached to a man. The fingers’ choreography creates a very own poesy that absorbs the listener and viewer all too much. But Gonzales wouldn’t be Gonzales, if he would allow single body parts to steal the show – no matter if it is three testicles or two hands. So he jokes and raps his way into the Londoners’ hearts (if he hasn’t already had a place in there), who in return are far from being stingy with spontaneous reactions and applause. Amongst them, Jarvis Cocker, Kimbra, Peter Serafinowicz and Akira The Don were spotted. The frantically they clap, the carefully they listen, for example, when he speaks of the imaginary boundaries he draws, so he doesn’t become lost in composition. As a result, the main rule for one of the more baroque Solo Piano II pieces, Evolving Doors, was “No Arpeggios!” (he used them generously when making Train of Thought). In the end, the note-by-note-performance of a chord would be nothing but a cheap trick to create the illusion of musicality. The idea of boogie-woogie is an evolution of the Arpeggio, but: “It looks better on paper! Listen, Jools Holland!”, Gonzales rumbles into the BBC entertainer’s direction, who inexplicably hasn’t invited him to his show yet. Also at these funny and educational parts of the show, PianoVision is an enriching addition. The audience turns even more into a master class and some may have actually learned though the visual perception along with the spoken parts. And if it was only the Claydermanian canon: “Teasing the note makes old ladies really wet!” – an advice Gonzales gave as the prelude to Beans.
Only twice PianoVision gets interrupted and two mini movies occur instead of Gonzales’ hands. At those moments, he actually performs the soundtrack to a silent movie, a comic for instance. It shows the metamorphosis of a man, his metamorphosis. To the strains of a furiously climactic Dot, the grand piano turns into a wild bull, who turns against his player. After a short fight, the man amalgamates with the creature and struts away as a part of it, as a reversed Minotaur – man above and pianobull below the belt. Perhaps this illustrates parts of one of Gonzales’ inner fights. The result may be the first edition of Solo Piano, after years of musical experiments the reversion of the piano – and solo the piano. And so the Pianotaur dashes off stage after a thrilling show including songs of Solo Piano and Solo Piano II as well as The Unspeakable and two encores. Behind he leaves a (star)dust cloud and a standing crowd at Cadogan Hall.