Clint Mansell @ The Royal Concert Hall, 29 Mar
A world away from his bombastic Pop Will Eat Itself days, former lead singer Clint Mansell has returned to Scottish shores as a metamorphosed man, after a lengthy absence from these parts. Since his long-time collaborator, the celebrated film director Darren Aronofsky invited Mansell to score his debut film Pi, the acutely talented, self-taught English musician has reinvented himself as something of a composer enfant terrible – and tonight’s Royal Concert Hall performance is a moving, contemplative journey through this career's second coming.
Following the rumbling, ominous compositions from Pi, Mansell and his orchestra work progressively through the rest of his sublimely emotive scores. Music from Duncan Jones's Moon follows, steered by drummer Eric Gardner’s intensely hypnotic, primal percussive beats, and electrified by the malefic strings of the masterful Kronos quartet. Music from Aronofsky’s subsequent films follows, as Mansell and his precision-perfect fellow musicians move seamlessly through highlights from Requiem For A Dream and Black Swan – the latter’s searing strings proving as vehemently piercing as the film itself – as well as his score to Ben Wheatley's JG Ballard adaptation High-Rise.
If Mansell’s motivation was to prove himself as a composer, then by way of these sumptuously delivered pieces, he has done so without vacillation. A thoroughly endearing character on stage, he comes across humble, ever so slightly nervous, yet warm, and acutely aware of the great importance of human connection to his art. Yet the great man is not quite done with our heartstrings – the Fountain finale, Death Is The Road To Awe, is a crushing, febrile tour de force, made all the more poignant by the spectre of Heather, who Mansell refers to fondly and forlornly – his girlfriend who passed away 18 months prior.
The singular downfall of the evening is the perplexing inattention of large pockets of the audience, despite the spellbinding nature of the performance. Indeed, Mansell’s work demands a certain kind of fixed contemplation that perhaps challenges 21st century attention spans, yet this is essential, if uneasy listening. As Mansell himself attests, to much laughter from the audience, “when you’re a true punk rocker, you don’t give a fuck – you just do what you want.” And aren’t we grateful that he has?