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Mary J Blige, O2 Arena, London (Rated 4/ 5 )

After 15 years of sharing heartfelt tales, testimonies of love and gaining an Oprah Winfrey status on wax, it's little wonder that Mary J Blige has calmed down. Her latest album, Growing Pains, spelt out her desire for her fans to respect the fact she's now a grown woman whose marital bliss is her reigning inspiration, rather than the drug-addled testimony of her former years.

Inside Reviews

Preview: Don Carlos, Royal Opera House, London

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Cast changes due to illness are normally greeted by groans, but not when it was announced at the last minute that Ferruccio Furlanetto would stand in as Fiesco in the Royal Opera's Simon Boccanegra last month: some critics meanly wished the sick absentee a long, slow recovery. Furlanetto's deep bass warmth seemed to pervade the stage even when he wasn't singing, and his unique sound gave that tempestuous opera a rock-solid foundation.

Il Trovatore, Holland Park, London (Rated 2/ 5 )

Thursday, 5 June 2008

It was once famously said that Verdi's Il trovatore required the four best singers in the world. Unfortunately, they were unable to make it to west London this summer, and the four who did must have wondered if being in a dismal production on a very wet day was quite what they had bargained for. In every sense, it was the dampest start to another ambitious season for Opera Holland Park.

Thomas Rann / Wu Qian, Wigmore Hall, London

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Agents taking on young artists have a responsibility to guide in the timing of debut recitals, particularly in this country. The standard of playing heard almost daily – from, for instance, the BBC Young Generation Artists – sets a level of performance that cannot be ignored, especially if a young artist is making a debut at the Wigmore Hall.

The Dodos, Hoxton Bar & Grill, London (Rated 4/ 5 )

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

On paper "psych-pop folktronica", as The Dodos' music has been labelled, isn't a genre all that easy to call to mind. It seems like a made-up mélange of words – obscure yet oddly exact in a manner beloved of more snobbish music fans. But in front of a crowd packed into a small east London venue, it makes perfect sense.

Burma Cyclone Disaster Fundraiser, Scala, London (Rated 4/ 5 )

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

It's always tempting, when thinking about a disaster of Cyclone Nargis's magnitude, to conclude that there is nothing much one person can do. Sam Duckworth of Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. admits that tonight's hastily cobbled together event is not much, but it's something. At the bar between bands, he reckons this benefit might add six or seven grand to Oxfam's cyclone appeal ( "I just rang round everyone I knew who was in London," he explains.

Wychwood Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham (Rated 4/ 5 )

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Thanks to the canny booking of Welsh soulstress Duffy before her first chart entry, the Wychwood Festival attracted its biggest crowd since it began four years ago. Not that Britain's current chart favourite is quite ready for the outdoors yet.

You write the reviews: Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen, Poetry for the Beat Generation, Zonophone (Rated 4/ 5 )

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

On this rerelease of his debut spoken-world album from 1959, Jack Kerouac, one of the lead voices of the Beat generation of writers in the 1950s and 1960s, reads selections of his own work over the sympathetic accompaniment of the pianist Steve Allen.It features poems collected in Mexico City Blues, Old Angel Midnight, Heaven & Other Poems and a number of unpublished works, in which the poet tells stories through what he termed "bop prosody".

Sir Paul McCartney, Anfield Stadium, Liverpool: Macca's long and winding road brings him home

Monday, 2 June 2008

Macca at Anfield, the return of the native or the World's Greatest Living Scouser comes home, was always going to be so much more than just another stadium pop concert.

Britten Sinfonia/Masson/Macgregor/Youssef, Bath Abbey, Bath (Rated 4/ 5 )

Monday, 2 June 2008

Joanna MacGregor knows how to party, and I'm not just talking about the opening Party in the City for the 60th birthday of the Bath International Music Festival. The whole feel of this year's festival radiates bubbly enjoyment. It is, of course, a celebration of MacGregor's eclectic enthusiasms, with bold mixtures of artists drawn from the widest musical spectrum. Oddly, they sit perfectly in this historic city.

Dawn Kinnard, Bar Academy, London (Rated 3/ 5 )

Monday, 2 June 2008

There's a story behind the whisky-soaked, lived-in voice that belongs to Dawn Kinnard. The daughter of a Baptist preacher in Pennsylvania, Kinnard would take her guitar to her hairdressing job, where she started to write songs; she sold her treasured Harley-Davidson to record her mini-album. That she was discovered singing in a Nashville bar is fitting, given her smoky blues and country sound.

More reviews:

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