An iPhone never sounded so beautiful…

Ilona Burton

Quintessentially English in style and sound, the simplistic sound of Penguin Café both impressed and reassured an affectionate audience in Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall.16655 Penguin cafe.png An iPhone never sounded so beautiful...

Arthur Jeffes and his dandy companions add a touch of exuberance to traditional folk music whilst capturing the authenticity of the original works of the late Simon Jeffes, who formed the Penguin Café Orchestra in 1972.

Contrary to what one might expect from an outfit sporting ominous penguins peering from amps and ukulele players dressed in flat caps, top hats and a Fez-clad drummer, Penguin Café treat their audience to a sophisticated set of perfectly organised chaos.

Even the least rhythmic person on the planet would find it difficult not to tap along to each piece, with some reminiscent of Irish reels being played out at working class wedding celebrations in pubs with sticky floors. By the third piece, a sweating Arthur joked, “that gets faster every night.” This was the second of ten UK dates – I wish them luck.

Penguin Cafe encapsulated the skill and artistry of their original setup but were playful in their juxtaposition of traditional instruments (tin whistles and the distinctive harmonium) with modern technology, namely, a looped i-phone ringtone. A warm reception greeted familiar pieces, “Perpetuum Mobile” and “Telephone and Rubber Band”, acknowledged for their use in advertising and film soundtracks, but sparks of magic were scattered throughout the set including a few songs that have emerged and been peppered amongst sets since the group reformed.

Arthur modestly introduced songs from the new album “A Matter of Life…” “Pale Peach Jukebox” is evocative with a sense of urgency, whilst “That, not That” is slow and syncopated. A slight lapse in pace did not disappoint, but gave way to the stripped down “Paul’s Dance” and “Harry Piers”, a beautiful and emotional piano solo written as a tribute to Simon Jeffes.

Flowing seamlessly between exciting and energetic to deeply emotional, Penguin Café provide easy-listening music but with an undeniable depth of feeling. Playing live, it may seem like a one man show, but Arthur would beg to differ. Penguin Café are a perfect on-going tribute to Simon Jeffes and a delight to watch in their own right.

Tour Dates –

  • airmarshall

    You certainly have a way with words young lady.

    Penguin Café were an unusal collection of accomplished musicians that when brought together delivered an exuberant minimalist aesthetic in folk music, good to hear they are back on track.

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