9 lIves performance by Dave McKean : Brief Review

Just a quick few notes on Dave McKean’s “Nine Lives” performance at Kendal Comic Arts Festival last night. If you ever get a chance to see this, I recommend doing so. It showed previously at Sydney opera House, no idea when/where it’ll ever be on again. It’s a live performance by McKean and his musical collaborator Iain Ballamy. I reckon it’d translate to DVD, but I may be missing some subtle jazz nuance here…

McKean is a powerful creative force. He can draw and paint beautifully, and tell stories that touch the raw core of human experience, particularly in the way he approaches grief. Turns out he’sa good musician and composer too. Above and beyond these, the restlessness of his style, the continual experimentation, is what makes him stand out. At it’s best (life #3 stands out as a highlight, the experimentation was so intense, moving from slapstick stopmotion with live actors, to close-up shots of nature, to some beautiful composition of the three characters at different distances, to a full-on drawn animation with camels by Edweard Muybridge, and so on – my senses were reeling, in a good way). Some pieces were less successful (I felt rather flat regarding the last two, maybe I was worn out).

If you’re familiar with his “Pictures that Tick” books, you’ll recognise a few. “His Story” and “The Coast Road”, both amongst the strongest from those books, are beautifully reinterpreted for film/music here. Two borrow from the film Luna, and are also welcome additions to the mix.

So, powerful, intoxicating and deep, on the whole. It wasn’t perfect, but it would have been a safer, lesser piece of work if it had been. McKean can do polished, but is at his best exploring the rough edges, as here. Bravo.

UPDATE: A more detailed piece on 9 lives, from an earlier performance, including names of the 9 stories, here, courtesy of Bleeding Cool.

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