It wasn't very Islington. You could sense a deep intake of breath as a smart Friday-night Kings Place full house caught its first sight of Antonello Salis (photo credit : Fabio Presutti). A bright yellow bandana, and in its shade the impish weather-beaten face of a Sardinian approaching 60 (the salt got into his surname too). A black singlet revealing an awful lot of toned- if not exactly youthful - shoulder and forearm. There was an accordion on standing on the floor, and then Stefano Bollani announced in slightly over-respectful tones :"It is very important that you should know...(Pinter pause..) that we are now going to play (....)music for two pianos."
But once the two had let rip, it was clear what was going to happen. This was a gig with a cheeky, unbuttoned, anything-goes vibe. The music, the gags were continuous for just over 50 minutes. And those minutes passed very quickly indeed. This pair would be hard to beat for having fun and unwinding on a Friday night. The pace was varied, the quoting constant. A bit of Fats Waller here, a bit of splishsplash Don Pullen there. And according to an erudite friend, quite a few tasty dollops of Nino Rota too. The tunes they settled into were the Beatles' Here, There and Everywhere, Johnny Green's Body and Soul. But there was also a lot of vamping and joking around looped sequences. And singing. And laughter.
The toys came out too. A few in the first set, and a lot more in the second, when Salis switched mostly to accordion. Puppets with built-in electronic laughs, percussion instruments such as a wooden spoon, a saucepan lid, and (particularly effective on the strings of the Steinway) a supermarket plastic bag.
Bollani is a monster pianist. Salis is no slouch either. But perhaps the most surprising revelation (to me anyway) was Bollani as a pop singer. He gave Bruno Martino's 1968 romantic song "E la chiamano estate" (And they call it summer) the full Italian resonant baritone treatment. He's good.
To finish, the two gave a rocky and energetic treatment to Lady Madonna - with excursions into eg the revolutionary song Avanti Popolo and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. If it wasn't Islington, it wasn't ECM either. But it was what we buttoned-up Brits need more of: great, knockabout fun.
Stefano Bollani's band I Visionari is on at Kings Place tonight. www.kingsplace.co.uk