Brighton Dome hosted a memorable celebration of the first moon landing on Sunday (July 23) using jaw-dropping NASA footage and a lush live performance of Brian Eno’s classic ambient album Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks.
Icebreaker: Apollo, featured the sounds of a twelve-piece musical ensemble (Icebreaker) and a specially edited version of Al Reinert’s documentary about the Apollo space missions, For All Mankind. The impressive minimalist-leaning group were further bolstered by addition of go-to pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole, and performed a set from eclectic, and sometimes challenging, ground-breaking composers, before tackling Apollo by Brian Eno, with Roger Eno and Daniel Lanois.
Of the former, a thrilling and somewhat unsettling version of Scott Walker’s Epizootics, was the highlight, and featured Walker’s original vocals. While a rendition of a piece by Anna Meredith was a discordant and complex treat, and a suitably otherworldly prelude to the main event.
Fans of the original album will remember the celestial beauty of the pedal steel guitar (played on the record by co-creator and U2 producer Lanois) and BJ Cole explained to the audience that Eno used the instrument because it was often found on country and western music,which the astronauts favoured, and he joked that the sound they created was ‘zero gravity country and western.’
It’s a wonderful sound which has influenced plenty of bands who like their tunes at the blissed-out end of the musical mood spectrum, and was also used to good effect on the original soundtrack of Trainspotting.
The ensemble seemed at ease with the piece, which they first performed in 2009, and gave new live energy to the electronic and effects-heavy source material.
On-screen footage showed nervous-looking NASA ground staff working on computers that you wouldn’t trust to operate a self-service supermarket till, let alone map the progress of a 250,000-mile journey to the stars. Five decades on it’s difficult not to be moved by that journey. The incomparable visuals are still epic in scale and are swelled by Icebreaker’s beautiful accompaniment which adds to the moods of majesty and serenity of the astonishing spectacle.
By Steve Holloway