Gig review: Friday Night is BBC Music Night, City Halls

AN electric eclectic arrangement of pieces and performers - what’s not to enjoy? writes Fiona Shepherd

BBC Music Day Ambassador Noah Stewart. Picture: Contributed


City Halls, Glasgow

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The first ever BBC Music Day of outside broadcasts and live performances from various BBC centres around the country drew to a close with a typically good-natured Glasgow edition of Radio 2’s much loved, long running musical date, Friday Night is Music Night, which was renamed for the occasion and simulcast across a number of the corporation’s networks.

The City Halls programme stuck to the show’s usual easily digested diet of popular classics, stage musicals and film soundtracks. The overtures to The Marriage of Figaro and My Fair Lady and the Back to the Future theme were rendered with equal feel and gusto by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Richard Balcombe, while the notable contributions of an eclectic range of guest performers covered rock, pop, classical, folk and jazz constituencies. The audience was in raptures at the sight, never mind sound, of dashing American tenor Noah Stewart, whose poised presence was as much an attraction as his aching rendition of Recondita Armonia from Tosca.

Hometown favourites Deacon Blue sounded less assured in front of an orchestra but they charmed regardless with The Hipsters, their lovely nostalgic celebration of their salad days.

Claire Hastings, the self-possessed Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, was not in the slightest bit daunted by the orchestra, which backed her accomplished storytelling on Johnny Ramensky, or by the prospect of holding the room herself with a solo rendition of Robert Burns’ The Posie.

Violinist Jack Liebeck made light work of the third movement of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, while Welsh harpist Catrin Finch brought cascading chords and a touch of Mediterranean melodrama to her two numbers.

The melodrama continued during bhangra singer Jaz Dhami’s performance of two classic Indian film themes, accompanied by tabla and khol players and the SSO attacking those swirling Bollywood strings with alacrity.

The Jamie Cullum fan club was out in force to cheer on his introverted version of Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, which suppressed the natural wonder of the original but brought a sense of mystique in its place. However, his own song, The Edge of Something, was as woolly as its title, a big orchestral pop tune signifying very little.

Lulu hotfooted it from her interval appearance at BBC Scotland HQ to complete the line-up, then proceeded to treat the lightly soaring pop theme To Sir With Love like an overcooked rhythm’n’blues belter.

The wide-ranging appeal of the bill was reflected in the all-ages audience who were ever ready with the enthusiastic applause, and there was much throughout the concert to justify the delighted response, from Leonard Bernstein’s rousing, dynamic overture to Candide – where perky violins, lithe flute and high kicking brass melted seamlessly into fluid massed strings – right through to an ensemble rendition of The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows, already a masterpiece of orchestral pop arrangement.

• Seen on 05.06.15