Legendary musician Brian Eno announces his first-ever solo live tour with a UK exclusive at the Southbank Centre

Photography Cecily Eno

Whilst working on a new project in the twenty-tens, initially intended as a multi-channel sound installation, revered musician Brian Eno found that as he had gotten older, his voice had dropped considerably. He could now sing in a low C. Reflecting on the twenty-seventh solo studio album that utilised this new, deeper voice – a rarity in his ambient oeuvre – Eno stated “it was the first time I thought, ‘Oh, what about making a song that you could walk around inside?’.”

The Ship was released in 2016 to critical acclaim, each of its four tracks offering something distinctly different – a spoken-word piece from actor Peter Serafinowicz, a cover of The Velvet Underground’s ‘I’m Set Free’ – yet held together with a consistent and gorgeous bleed of bass, haze of synth, and voices that offer solemn, plaintive meditation. The title, Eno explained, was a reference to the Titanic, which he described as “the apex of human technical power, set to be man’s greatest triumph over nature.”

Last week the Southbank Centre announced the acclaimed artist (and Port issue 29 cover star) will perform his new live concert programme, ‘Ships’, in a UK exclusive with two performances on the 30th October at the Royal Festival Hall. This date forms part of a series of concerts in some of the most prestigious venues in Berlin, Paris and Utrecht. It also marks his first live tour in his five decade solo career and, excitingly, his first appearance with an orchestra – none other than the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, conducted by sonic pioneer Kristjan Järvi. Featuring the aforementioned Serafinowicz, as well as long-time collaborators Leo Abrahams (guitar) and Peter Chilvers (keyboard), the orchestral adaption of The Ship – originally commissioned by La Biennale di Venezia and set to formally premiere at the 2023 Venice Biennale Musica this October – will sit alongside new and classic compositions from the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

The Ship album cover

Discussing the tour, Eno notes that “The album is an unusual piece in that it uses voice but doesn’t particularly rely on the song form. It’s an atmosphere with occasional characters drifting through it, characters lost in the vague space made by the music. There’s a sense of wartime in the background, and a sense of inevitability. There is also a sense of scale which suits an orchestra, and a sense of many people working together. I wanted an orchestra which played music the way I would like to play music: from the heart rather than just from the score. I wanted the players to be young and fresh and enthusiastic. When I first saw the Baltic Sea Philharmonic I found all that…and then noticed they were named after a sea. That sealed it!”

Mark Ball, artistic director at the Southbank Centre, adds: “Brian Eno is one of the most influential and innovative musicians of the past 50 years and is a unique creative thinker. His collaborations with a veritable ‘who’s who’ of popular music have changed the way music is made, performed and perceived. We’re thrilled to exclusively welcome his first ever solo live tour to the Southbank Centre and to continue a journey of musical landmarks in the Royal Festival Hall.”

Brian Eno & Baltic Sea Philharmonic perform Ships at the Royal Festival Hall on the 30th October 2023