South Bank has Bragging Rights as a Destination Music Venue for September 2009

Posted: 25th August 2009

The summer is fast approaching its natural end for another year and the autumnal nights are drawing in. You want somewhere welcoming and culturally enriching to go to beat the wet weather blues? You want the South Bank Centre.

Situated South of the river and overlooking the Thames, the centre occupies a prime spot near Waterloo station and is surrounded by a fair selection of mid-range restaurants and cafes as well as some of the most stunning landmarks on either side - even the Hayward Gallery can be included in that statement, it's just had one of its grim stairwells painted a beaming custard yellow colour so you cannot miss it - it is also part of the Centre complex. Add to this the Tate Britain and Oxo building with even more cafes and bars, plus the inspirational Globe theatre and Vinopolis within a 15 minute walk and you could argue this is one of the more attractive locales in Central London.

But, for me, the South Bank Centre with its 3 key venues is the real deal here and the trio of cultural destinations have a packed programme lined up for September. Here is a summary of the very best to see, hear and touch (in some cases) over the next month:

For the gigs side of things, The Royal Festival Hall kicks off September with the previously advertised and hugely-anticipated return to the capital for Magazine on the 1st. Fresh from their various international jaunts around the globe, they will perform a selection of songs from their small but perfectly formed back catalogue with a strong leaning towards their Martin Hannett-produced landmark album, "The Correct Use Of Soap".

On the same night, Charlie Watts and friends explore the world of 'boogie-woogie' in the neighbouring Queen Elizabeth Hall (Purcell Rooms) - two legends on the same night? But we have only just started.

Nick Cave offers up a spoken-word evening to discuss his second novel, "The Death Of Bunny Munro", a road-trip novel about a beauty-products salesman's journey through life after his wife's suicide and due for release during September. His first novel, "And The Ass Saw The Angel", has been an international bestseller since its release 20 years ago so there is a sense of anticipation surrounding his follow-up story.

Roots music is also represented with 2 celebratory mini-festivals throughout the South Bank area. The London African Music Festival will begin here on the 11th with performances by Kaz Kasozi & Marafinki (Level 2 Bar) and Batanai (Queen E H Front Room area) during the afternoon. The whole festival takes in several African performances of all styles across 3 days. Key performers include the Yoruba Women Choir and Congo All Stars (11th - Q E Hall - £20 for each performance), Yolanda Brown and Aziza Brahim (12th - Q E Hall - £15 and £20 respectively) plus TY / Future Sounds Of Africa late gig from 10pm on the same day (Q E Hall - £20). The latter will incorporate a super-group of African vocalists and MCs alongside key afro-jazz and funk musicians. The final day (13th) will feature Ugandan vocalist Rachel Magoola (who appeared on Beatrice Byakika's debut album - £15), Hil St Soul (African soul - £20) and the legend of Zimbabwean Tuku sounds, Oliver Mtukudzi (£25), all appearing in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The folk music label, Topic Records, celebrates its 70th birthday this year and what an influential line-up there is too. The Waterson Family (11th), Martin Simpson (17th) and June Tabor (18th) play rare London dates at The QE Hall as well as the cheekily-named closing night, Club Topicana (19th) which will feature an amalgam of Topic starlets, old and new, for an evening of merriment. Check out Nancy Wallace as well - she plays a free gig in the Front Room QE Hall on the 18th, a voice to be reckoned with.

4 more gigs of interest throughout September are the inimitable raconteur and insect-aficionado, Robyn Hitchcock (part of the South Bank 'Pestival' event and playing songs devoted to creepy-crawlies - 4th , £20 QE Hall), Emiliana Torrini (13th, £20 QE Hall - critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter) and the treasured vocalist, Gwyneth Herbert (29th,£15 QE Hall). But the most curious of the lot, and again part of the 'Pestival' event, is the long-awaited appearance of Cabaret Voltaire's original electronic wizard, Chris Watson. 'Who is he?' I hear you ask... CV need little introduction as Sheffield's premier new-wave electronic act from the late 70's but Watson left in those early years to pursue a career in recorded sound. Here he follows up his work on the BBC's "Life In The Undergrowth" series with an exploratory evening of experimental insect-inspired sounds and music on the 6th (£20 QE Hall). Antennae optional.

Finally, the classical season gets under way with a perfectly conducted (sorry) string of concerts including a Leonard Bernstein programme beginning on the 20th with a Mass Rally conducted by Marin Alsop and featuring members of Bellowhead and various Sinfonias, all for just £5 at the Royal Festival Hall. The same day sees various other Bernstein-related projects taking place across the South Bank. Other key classical concerts include appearances by Marcelo Bratke (14th) performing a trio of Brazilian-influenced piano works by Villa-Lobos, Milhaud and Nazareth, John Adams (27th) conducting the London Sinfonietta playing the UK premiere of his 'Son Of Chamber Symphony' and Vladimir Ashkenazy & the Philharmonia Orchestra (22nd).

For a complete programme of September events see the South Bank website (

Paul Pledger