Sunspots: Kings Place London, December 7

The last show of the year and the third one in London (previously we've been to Keats House and the Royal Festival Hall) brought us to this premier venue. I have a little bit of history with Kings Place, having been commissioned to write new poems for its opening in October 2008. As part of Poet in the City's 'Touching the Sky' event, I spent time with the architect of Kings Place, Jeremy Dixon, and wrote two poems, 'Bounded in a Nutshell' (click here to read it in The Guardian) and this one:

Kings Cross Sections


For the bats of Battlebridge Basin

it's all about location, location, echolocation.

And after a fruitful swoop

it's back to base on the 'green roof'

of Kings Place.


Waves of glass

lap along the shore of York Way,

Venetian skill persuading every pane

to flex, deflect a little from the true,

and televise, in widescreen, London skies.


Some buildings suit a tracking shot.

The escalator's dolly takes you down

through fossil records, limestone layers

and if your're a player, a real GoodFella,

ask them to show you the new meat cellar:

a good place for foodies to hang.

(from Bonjour Tetris, Penned in the Margins 2010)

Bringing Sunspots to Kings Place felt like some kind of homecoming. It was ridiculously exciting for me to be given the 'Soloist's dressing room'. I felt like an impostor, of course, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment. Over the course of the tour I've become fond of the curious, lonely, exciting, painful, waiting rooms and dressing rooms I've spent my final minutes in before showtime.

There's an exquisite pain to these rooms: something anonymous, soulless, prison-like, haunted by the hopes and anxieties of every performer who has passed through them. I think of the dressing rooms in Raging Bull: one where Jake La Motta stumbles pitifully through his lines and the other, after his shred of redemption, when he delivers the devastating monologue from On the Waterfront to his reflection at the Barbizon Plaza.

The 'Soloist's dressing room' at Kings Place, Hall Two

The 'Soloist's dressing room' at Kings Place, Hall Two

The instrument case in this photograph contains not my usual trumpet but a flugelhorn. To make things harder for myself, I thought I'd debut a new instrument for the fourth song of the show, 'Unsunblocked'.

The darker, warmer tone of the flugelhorn works better for the improvised section I play live over the second verse of the song. The instrument is new and the third valve sticks a little, so I was nervous about playing it. In the end it didn't let me down and now I guess I'll have to take it to Oxford, Nottingham and Halifax in the New Year.

For me, tonight's show was the best yet: a great crowd, high-definition sound and vision, and (I think) my best performance so far. The piece has started to feel natural and organic to me and I'm having more and more fun with my performance. I'm taking a break for Christmas but will be back in Oxford on January 11. Happy Christmas and New Year to all!

Click for Sunspots tour dates.