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Ennio Morricone, rock icon

Live Review

Venue: O2, London

As the Italian composer plays the O2, we ask: what's this octogenarian got to do with Classic Rock?

Ennio Morricone is an icon. For nearly 70 years, his elegaic, elegant, gaunt and peripatetic musical philosophy has helped to bring an extra dimension to some of cinema's most memorable movies. But it's only when you witness the man and his works onstage that you appreciate how much he has become part of the flesh and fabric of heavy rock. In fact, you can make a strong case for saying his influence on the music and bands we know and love has been massive.

This is the real Man In Black
He might be 86 years old, but Morricone strides across the stage like someone half his age. His energy is remarkable, and is fused through his baton the way Ritchie Blackmore or Tony Iommi us their guitar as extensions of their personalities. And he has an enigma that comes from using his compositions as the primal expressions of his emotions.

The sound is bloody huge
Well, there's the Czech National Symphony Orchestra – with 86 members. Plus the 76 strong Kodály Choir from Hungary. Together, they create a vast swathe of sound that outdecibels anything achievable with walls of amps. But the clarity and purpose are breathtaking. When the music roars, it's an envelope of apocalyptic thunder. But you can also hear the gentle tinkle of tympani when required.

Want to know where Deep Purple got at least one idea? 
When you listen to The Battle Of Algiers then you appreciate this must be where Purple got the idea for the stentorian rhythmic opening for Knocking At Your Back Door. And Morricone's composition is from 1966 – 18 years before Purple's moment arrived!

But what about those spaghetti western themes? 
The night is divided into two acts, each with three suites, and one of these is inevitably given over to the famed music he came up with those Sergio Leone classics. And when you hear music from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly through to A Fistful Of Dynamite, then you're hearing some of the best metal of all time. Seriously, Morricone's inspiration here has been massive. This is where so many of Metallica's ideas were born.

Talking of Metallica... 
Yes, we did get Ecstasy Of Gold... twice! Both times, with soprano Susanna Rigacci leading the charge. It now seems a little odd not to hear Metallica breaking into their stride as the last strains ride off into the sunset. This has been so closely connected to the band as their intro for three decades. The recorded version is majestic, but when done like this the impact is diabolical, seismic. And it gets the biggest reaction of the night.

Why do it twice? 
Because Morricone actually didn't plan any encores. So, when the demand was there for three encores, all he could do was repeat passages from the main set. And Ecstasy... was always gonna get a reprise. 

So, Ennio Morricone...a rock hero?  
Absolutely. This will be one of the great live occasions of 2015. He dubbed this show My Life In Music. And you can hear in every syllable, each note and cadence his struggles and triumphs. Every rock fan should applaud and acclaim this master, because his is a colourful artistry, which is as much part of the story of rock as anyone. 

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