24 Jan 2007 00:00 - 00:00
The Plastic People of the Universe
The UK debut of the only rock group to have altered the course of European history. From their formation in Prague in 1968, the PPU were harassed, intimidated and imprisoned by the Communist authorities in Czechoslovakia and became a symbol of dissident resistance. Recently celebrated in Tom Stoppard’s new play Rock’n’Roll, and hailed as harbingers of the Velvet Revolution of 1989, they fought the law and won. If their story is extraordinary, their music is truly revolutionary – extreme, intense, by turns dreamy and ecstatic, informed by Zappa, free jazz and roof-raising rock’n’roll.
Opening: Peter Belgvad, Chris Cutler and John Greaves
The concert marks the 30th Anniversary of the Charter 77 human rights petition, a movement inspired by the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of members of the Plastic People of the Universe band in 1976. Established in January 1977, Charter 77 represented the only opposition to the Communist government in Czechoslovakia for a long period of time until the Velvet Revolution brought in the values they were promoting. After their break up in 1987 the Plastics reunited to play in Prague Castle to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Charter 77 in 1997. The success of their one night reunion eventually led to a tour and the revival of the band, which recently saw them playing in Berlin, Vienna, Moscow and New York.
Thirty years ago a bunch of Czech longhairs with a love of Frank Zappa’s music became less a rock band and more a symbol of freedom.
The Times, 12 January 2007
The Plastic People of the Universe became underground legends after going to jail in their native Czechoslovakia. They inspired Vaclav Havel and Charter 77, were immortalised by Tom Stoppard and are now set to play in Britain for the first time.
The Independent, 10 January 2007
A band good enough to really piss off the state, this Czech group kept the spirit of the Prague Spring alive for almost 20 years until they were repressed out of existence by the Communist government. Recently reformed, the former international causes celebres have lost none of their chops—they still sound like a raging klezmer orchestra fronted by Frank Zappa.
The New York Press, 19 July 1998
“The music of the Plastics has absorbed something essential from this spirit of space and time encoded within it is an important warning, some highly specified information about the existential fine tuning of people who find themselves in a place where the knots of history are tied and unravelled.”
Plastic People originally operated as a kind of underground movement within their country when the Communists tightened their grip in 1968. Recorded in barns and basements, the band's music began drawing on the most cracked rock sources of the hippie era, especially Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart's Magic Band. The result falls halfway between experimental jazz/rock and ponderous art-rock Czech President Vaclav Havel himself sat in on some band sessions back when he was a fellow dissident. Friends helped smuggle the band's music out of the country, creating a cult following around the world. Consider it a harmonic convergence of poet/art freaks from more than one culture.
Daily News, New York, 14 July 1998
116 Long Acre
WC2E 9PA London
24 Jan 2007 00:00 - 00:00
South Bank Centre