I made it in no time, down High Holborn, past Smithfield markets, past (shudder) where I used to work, and to the imposing concrete fortress that is the Barbican. Despite it's gloomy, overbearing appearance, more resembling a castle-like housing estate than Europe's largest cultural centre, already in my year here I've seen some of the best live music there in the concert hall, and tonight was to be no different.
Reaching the other side of the huge yellow rectangular tunnel running underneath the whole thing, I quicken my pace to a Wetherspoon's a few blocks up the road. It's okay for chain pub grub, it's relatively cheap, and I know the menu. Carefully locating a good vantage point, I fold my coat and scarf carefully over the rail nearby, make my order, and when my steak comes out I indulge in a slightly unusual but strangely welcome occasional habit of eating a meal in public, by myself.
Don't get me wrong, food's to be shared with laughter and wine and wild stories and future adventures out there in the night to come, but now, in my single, largely self-serving, not-too-lonely bachelor life here in the big city, the odd dining experience by oneself is to be enjoyed now and then. If I did it every week I'd start to wonder if there was something wrong, but a couple of times a month is not so bad.
Inhaling a satisfactory steak and salad, I rush back down the street and into the queue for returns at the Concert Hall. Thanks to a generous stranger bypassing some strangely inefficient ticketing procedure, I was given a free ticket to the balcony with minutes to spare to see the Brad Mehldau Trio.
Brad's always been a funny one for me. There are times when it's totally my thing and it's forward looking and all that, but there's other work that leaves me a bit cold, and this concert seemed to move in periods between these two states. Some songs just left me for dead, but others, the one's where he did his thing, totally enveloped me in his darkly beautiful world. Evolving counterlines between hands, a harmonic knowledge from another galaxy, and top support from long-time partner Larry Grenadier on bass and (surprise for me) the extraordinary Jeff Ballard on drums, relative newcomer to this group, combined for a subtle and intense evening.
Most of the material was from a new album, so I only recognised a couple, but Radiohead's 'Knives Out' was superb, and the real treat of the evening was 'Black Hole Sun' by Soundgarden. First encore was some glorious country-infused waltz thing which I'm guessing is the title track from the new album - I'm a sucker for those kind of tunes, and I would have been happy to leave on that one, but the crowd wanted more and they sure got it - Brad whips out this insane extended intro into 'Countdown' at Ludicrous Speed (a la Live at Vanguard volume 2), and then they took it into free playing before the out! Too much for me - it's like, "Okay, you want more, so we're gonna give you some Coltrane changes...now GO HOME!"....anyway, terrific stuff, glad I caught it....
Note: for those unfamiliar with the Jazz knowledge I just referred to, 'Coltrane changes' is a certain system of harmony which, well, let's just say it's complex in its simplicity, and for these players to do with it what they did...it's enough to do your bloody head in!