Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 25 February 2024

During his set, Roger Eno turned around on his piano stool to face the audience and described himself as a “de-composer”. While it might be cheeky, tongue-in-cheek and one of many moments where his wry, diffident humour has the audience in stitches, it perfectly describes his aesthetic – of removing superfluous notes and details from his compositions to leave spaces, gaps and resonant silences. In these pieces, mostly drawn from his last two albums, ‘The Turning Year’ (2022) and ‘The Skies They Shift Like Chords’ (2023), very little happens. And yet everything happens. 

Pieces like ‘A Place We Once Walked’ are mesmerising. For the most part, his focus is on the centre of the keyboard. He delivers clusters of gently overlapping notes that are occasionally punctuated by delicate, effusive upper octave melodies. His playing mirrors the slideshow of images, mostly taken around his Suffolk home, where his camera seems to focus intently and completely on the details of an object that most people would overlook.

It wasn’t always thus. Tonight Eno plays ‘Through The Blue’, from ‘Voices’ (1985). In comparison to a piece like the meditative ‘Morning Chords’ with which he begins his set, ‘Through The Blue’ is full, overflowing with rivers of cascading notes. Even without the undulating ambient landscapes that Daniel Lanois and his brother Brian added to the piece as producers, ‘Through The Blue’ is breathtaking. 

The addition of the five-strong South Bank Sinfonia, hastily convened earlier in the day for a mere three-hour rehearsal, imbued pieces like ‘A Walk In The Woods’ with emotion-heightening gravity, a dextrous violinist mimicking birdsong at one point. Elsewhere, ‘The Turning Year’ seemed more rooted in its devastatingly accepting outlook on mortality and the unstoppable passage of time than ever.

Fittingly, given that ‘The Turning Year’ was composed in response to observing his two children growing older, Eno was joined by his daughter Cecily for three pieces, including the haunting ‘Strangely, I Dreamt’. Hers is a voice that, like her father’s piano playing, conveys so much without ever relying on volume or clutter. That subtly strident voice reinforces the entire aesthetic of this set, being gently powerful, centred, assured and tender, and an absolute joy to experience. 

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