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We have lift off: Anna Meredith live in London

30 March 2016, 10:41 | Written by Thomas Hannan

Anna Meredith's music tiptoes along lines between pop and classical, populist and highbrow, immediate gratification and joys you have to work for. Yet listening to her speak in between songs at her album launch tonight (29 March) is to hear a woman talk with a joy and sincerity devoid of any affectation.

If Meredith could have thanked every attendee at a sold out ICA in London, one gets the impression she would have – and then directed them to the merch table, whereupon sit t-shirts bearing her name that she describes as "the best thing that has ever happened".

The current outpouring of goodwill might have taken her by surprise (she's perhaps the only musician on Twitter whose retweeting of complimentary reviews of her own music is actually really endearing – she genuinely seems gobsmacked), but it's fully deserved. Varmints, the record being given a sendoff, is a daring, invigorating work that – despite its maker having a long and celebrated career in classical composition – to most of us pop fans, came from nowhere. But yet, whatever happens in the remaining nine months of the year, it deserves to be talked of as one of 2016's best. And yes, I know there is a Radiohead album coming.

If all music sits on a spectrum somewhere between passion and precision (which it probably doesn't, but whatever), Meredith's parks itself right in the middle and makes regular excursions to either extreme. Backed tonight by a guitarist, drummer, two cellists and a tuba player, moments where they're all yelling "yeah, yeah, yeah!" at the top of their lungs ("Taken") sit surprisingly comfortably next to far more intricate pieces, such as that where Meredith joins her band on clarinet and all six of them bash out a ridiculously fast rendition of the many frantic riffs of "R-Type" all in perfect unison. It's mesmerising, but never alienating; whether operating at their technical peak or yelling at the top of their lungs, the feeling of celebration is palpable.

My first thought upon hearing Varmints was that there's an all singing, all dancing Barbican production in it somewhere, and seeing Anna Meredith live for the first time has only made me more convinced of its feasibility. There's a world of fascinating musical theory you could get lost in here, if you were so inclined. You could also just shout "yeah, yeah, yeah!" along with your mates. Meredith doesn't mind. She just thanks you for coming.


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