Having recently retired after a herniated disc weakened his bowing arm, Julian Lloyd Webber took to the stage last night at St George’s, Bristol as part of a tour he had created to tribute and reflect upon his performance career as one of the world’s leading cellists.

The programme for the ‘Evening with Julian Lloyd Webber’ was a mixed media affair with everything thrown in. He opened with a video and throughout the first half alternated between live performance from his wife and videos of himself performing. From a plush red velvet sofa Lloyd Webber presented old videos projected on a big screen showing his proudest moments. Unfortunately the sound quality was terrible on all of the videos and rather ruined the reflective nature of “raiding the attic”.

Jiaxin, his wife, performed works that had been composed by Lloyd Webber or were his favourite to perform on stage. Accompanied by Pam Chowham on the piano, Jiaxin played her way through excerpts of Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata in G minor, Elgar’s Cello Concerto and even a piece composed by Philip Glass called Tissue no. 2. She also performed an arrangement of Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber with a slideshow of the two brothers holding hands. Likewise there was a performance of his father William’s In the Half Light with pictures of his dad and himself together.

Jiaxin was not given enough credit as a cellist in her own right. Her performances of all the pieces were brilliant and the real passion in her performance was displayed whilst she was playing Rachmaninov. The other pieces felt like more of a dutiful performance than a performance from the heart. When she was enthusiastic about the music, she had a fiery nature to her playing and was a lot stronger with the bow. Her dynamics were more expressive and her projection more profound.

After the interval a longer batch of clips showing all of the famous people that Lloyd Webber had worked with was shown, suffering even poorer sound quality. This was then followed by Lloyd Webber reflecting on his past in a 'Question and Answer' session with the audience.

As the penultimate performance of the evening, Lloyd Webber invited a young cellist student, Sabrina to play on stage. It wasn’t clear whether she had any connection with Lloyd Webber as a student or friend. She played a few notes, unaccompanied, of Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata and was stopped, only to be told by Lloyd Webber that she needed to “feel a greater connection with the instrument”. She was allowed another minute of playing before being stopped again for Lloyd Webber to proceed to take her cello and play a Vivaldi duet with his wife as the finale of the evening, during which, this poor girl sat down on the sofa on the other side of the stage, to many audience whispers.

The idea behind the evening had potential, but was too impassioned and not really thought through. It was sad to see the obvious frustration within Lloyd Webber and his obvious desire to perform. Through all the pieces that were played live by his wife, he was looking constantly between her performance and the audience for an approval. If he had been presenting an evening of live music, then the autobiographical nature of the evening would have been more justified as a concert. Instead it resulted in a rather self-indulgent desire to prove himself, something that someone with such a well respected career need not worry about.