Live Review: Erland Cooper At Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room

Scottish composer Erland Cooper radiated with charisma at his first show at the Philharmonic Music Room on Tuesday (11 June). References to Macca’s Blackbird, emulations of Sunrise on a Ferry, excerpts of buried Master tapes and audience collaboration were all wrapped into a fascinating and inspiring hour long set. 

Liverpool’s esteemed Music Room is renowned for its enchanting sound, the soft panelled walls inviting music to permeate through the room with gentle precision. There are certain shows in which this sound unfolds almost as if watching a film on screen and tonight was such. Both Erland and opening act Alex Kozobalis played with grandeur, captivating the audience from the front row to the very back of the room. 

Greek filmmaker and composer Kozobalis charmed the packed room first with his original compositions. Lost Hours released a darkly moving melody. Each note elongated dreamily with an elegant sustain. Unreleased track Icarus revisited myths and themes of a child born into darkness. “All he’s known” in a “parable about obedience and longing”. Leaning into the poetry of his inspiration, Kozobalis opens the piece with a fluttering of notes simulating a flight of birds fleeting overhead, the quaint symbolism interwoven into his music.   

Finally, as we hear clips of birds chirping, rainfall and thunder as the lights are dimmed, Erland Cooper glides on stage as he would into his own studio or home, casual and disarming, joined by his five piece string Orchestra. A tape machine propped on the piano, connecting us to his process. 

The room is pin drop quiet, enough to hear Cooper switch on the tape machine to audio clips of Greta Thunberg and old weather forecasts as “nature’s songwriter” sets the tone early on. From this moment the audience are in Cooper’s palms as he tilts his head back and plays the show’s opening notes.

Combining field recordings and traditional orchestration often inspired by his childhood home of Stromness, Orkney, Cooper’s work also visits themes of nature, people, place and time. Such, that the restless composer famously planted unheard master tapes in Orkney three years ago, leaving only treasure hunt clues to its whereabouts. After the tape was finally discovered by fans Victoria and Dan Rhodes in 2023, Cooper has been revealing sprinklings of the tape to his audience at his live shows before its official world premiere later this year.  

To this Cooper reflects, the earth ‘co-wrote’ the pieces. As we listen to a ‘wee’ excerpt of the album titled Carve The Runes Then Be Content With Silence.  The silenced room revel in this exclusive disclosure, not risking anything to miss a beat I imagine, and Erland’s jovial quip that it’s “great to be in Liverpool” is warmly reciprocated. 

Each piece delivers with an experimental intensity, arrangements of field recordings, live music and electronic elements tying together like loose threads whilst Cooper’s playful nuances in each interval optimise his swift transition to somewhere deep in the roots of his music. 

The show is paired into equal amounts of audio clips and soaring strings from Cooper’s accompaniment and his spirited ‘wee experiments’. The first, in remembrance of a friend Cooper recently lost ensues with Liverpool’s ‘first choir of birds’ as the audience readily interact. Following instructions we use our phones to play a link to an audio clip of birds chirping. To this, our director beams from the stage, jokingly referencing Paul McCartney’s entrance when the bird in question is revealed as the Blackbird, of course. Is it really? We can’t be sure.  

Cooper admires the music as if he were a ticket holder himself, striding back and forth on stage, encumbered with thought before walking down the isolated audience aisle to both direct and be directed as his compositions unfold. There are no clues as to where Cooper will go next, but all eyes are on him. 

As the show draws to a close with Screvarr from the 2020 album Hether Blether, Cooper visibly relaxes into its livelier melody with synths building among the strings into a climax both slow burning and fierce. 

After just under an hour this tentative, charmed audience unexpectedly welcome the final surprise of the night in the shows only vocal piece, First of the Tide. A solemn and sweet adieu to a magical night. 

Erland Cooper’s debut at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Music Room was both fascinating and thrilling. In case you missed it, tickets are now available for his tour in November with the premier of his buried masters.  

Naomi Campbell


Founder and Editor, Clare Deane, shares her passion for all the amazing things happening in Liverpool. With a love of the local Liverpool music scene, dining out a couple of times a week and immersing herself in to all things arts and culture she's in a pretty good place to create some Liverpool Noise.

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