Thirteen years after the death of Penguin Cafe Orchestra founder Simon Jeffes, his son Arthur has started playing his music again as Penguin Cafe. It is a new name for an old band that play some of the most majestic and beguiling music you are ever likely to hear.
The new incarnation of Penguin Cafe Orchestra left the stage to rapturous applause after a 90-minute set of stunning virtuosity, but the night had earlier began with the Portico Quartet, a four-piece modern jazz group from London who were signed after being spotted busking outside the National Theatre.
Their sound is made distinctive by the use of the hang, a very modern percussion instrument used on all their tracks, like three small steel drums placed on top of one another.
The Mercury Music Prize-nominated Portico Quartet, thanked semi-erroneously by Jeffes as Portishead, was composed of Jack Wyllie (soprano and alto saxophone), Duncan Bellamy (drums), Milo Fitzpatrick (double bass), and Nick Mulvey (hang and percussion).
Penguin Cafe played both old and new compositions, with musicians including those from the Royal College of Music and some who have played with bands including Suede and Gorillaz.
Penguin Cafe Orchestra favourites were dropped in among the new songs. Music for a Found Harmonium started off like the band was tuning up, but then transformed into a song that although written three decades ago is still as popular and widely-used today.
You might not realise you know any Penguin Cafe Orchestra songs, but you most certainly do if you watch any adverts at all on television, such as Telephone and Rubber Band featured on a One2One advert. Here, the tape loop recorded while Jeffes senior was making a phone call and got a cross line was played via an iPhone.
That was the only nod to modernity in a set featuring ten musicians on a stage flanked by two giant penguin heads, who played dozens of instruments. Even when what looked like a laptop case was produced, it turned out to be a glockenspiel.
The penultimate song was the moving Harry Piers, played only by Jeffes on the piano and written for his father’s memorial service.
This was a fitting tribute to one of the best and most eclectic British bands of recent times. It was a wonderful night of live music.