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Tom Bates discusses his preparation for the world premiere of PRIMAL

Wexford-Echo article



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Thursday, January 20, 2011

The ‘Primal’ instinct of rhythm

THERE WAS a tangible air of excitement in Wexford Opera House ahead of the world premiere of ‘Primal’ by local percussion group, Extreme Rhythm.  The brainchild of renowned drummer and master percussionist, Nicky Bailey, Extreme Rhythm has won critical acclaim all over the world over the course of the last 10 years.  From opening the United States Grand Prix to performances at some of the most extravagant venues in Asia, the group has rapidly forged a reputation as one of the most exciting new percussion ensembles to emerge on the world music scene in years.

From the opening scene where a voiceover, which to these ears sounded like Nick Bailey himself, explained the essence of rhythm to the packed auditorium the show was a cacophony of sound created with minimal vocalisation.  Nick Bailey has forged a career out of working with major touring productions such as Riverdance and Celtic Woman.

That influence was evident during certain portions of the show when the main body of percussive work was enhanced by some fantastic solo Irish dancing, performed in a modern almost freestyle manner, and brilliant intermittent moments of out-and-out trad courtesy of the show’s fabulous four-piece band.

From a visual perspective the show had many highlights. During the first half there was a moment when the lights dawned through the two massive tom-tom style drums which adorned both side of the stage.  As the back stage light shone through the drums it made the whole stage appear as if it was a face with the drums as its evil eyes.  There was another moment when the reflection from the drums on stage on the backdrop invoked an image of a massive transformer styled robotic head at the rear of the stage. Whether by design or chance it was very effective.

The trad moments were perhaps more Celtic in feel than specifically Irish trad based and this is something which will probably serve the show well when Extreme Rhythm take it on a world tour later this year.

The opening scene of ‘Act II’ saw the group take things down with the reflective tones of the jungle being recreated on stage. It was one of the magic moments of the night.  There were numerous times when the audience was encouraged and enticed to join in the fun with the absolutely stand-out moment coming early in the second half when five of the group’s percussionists sat on stools centre stage and proceeded to literally become a human percussive kit.

The amount of work that went into that particular section of the show must have been immeasurable and it certainly paid off. It was humourous, brilliant and wonderfully entertaining and the audience lapped it up.

With Extreme Rhythm the essence of brilliance is what they regard as ‘primal.’ The standing ovation at the end summed up one amazing night in Wexford.