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Saturday November 19, 2011

Amazing '80's: Orchestra London with Jeans 'n Classics
Red Hot Weekends, November 2011

by Brian Hay

The indisputable high point of the evening belonged to singer/songwriter Kathryn Rose. Her performance of 'These Dreams' absolutely blew the stage apart.

It was far from the only good or great thing that went on though. Gavin Hope opened the show with an inspired rendition of the Tears for Fears hit 'Head Over Heels' and followed it with a stunning performance of Ah Ha's huge hit, 'Take on Me'. Host John Regan introduced it as featuring some "really high singing" from Gavin. It was all that and more. Both of the male vocalists featured on this program have voices with phenomenal range. Neil Donell can sing anything, and do it with the heart and feeling the writer imagined in the first place. He unleashed a soaring version of 'If This Is It' by Huey Lewis and the News. His rendition of 'Men At Work's classic 'Land Down Under' brought new life to the piece that made it sparkle throughout the hall.

Both of these guys are really funny. Neil's a quiet sort who sort of waits in the weeds for somebody to open the doors for a zinger. John Regan turned the handle a few times and Donell's comments left him in stitches. That's when you know it probably wasn't scripted, or if it was, nobody could keep a straight face. Gavin has a combination of cutting wit, timing and a flair for theatrical exaggeration that doesn't quit. When he and Regan got going (which they did a few times) the results were side-splitting.

The ladies in the show more than held their own. Andrea Koziol and Kathryn Rose delivered stunning work as soloists and as harmony singers. They wrapped themselves all around Neil Donell's stunning interpretation of Wham's 'Careless Whisper'. The three way harmony they and two way exchanged they executed on Gavin Hope's reading of Prince's 'Diamonds and Pearls' was breathtaking. Their duets on the Bangles' 'Walk Like and Egyptian' and Abba's 'Lay All Your Love On Me' were stellar. Their work on the Eurythmics' piece, 'Lay All Your love On Me' was a joy to watch. These two play off of each other with the ease only found among consummate pro's. Andrea especially, delivered her high notes with punch.

Anyone who doubts that rock can mesh with symphony really needs to see the musicians of Orchestra London working with the musicians of Jeans 'n Classics. Drummer Jeff Christmas and Percussionist D'Arcy Gray worked like a single being with four superbly coordinated hands. Together with bassist Kevin Muir they generated a huge amount of energy that fed ensemble, orchestra and audience alike. Under the baton of Conductor Mitch Tyler the string and wind sections of the Orchestra followed the rhythm players with a snap that was as natural as would be expected from any single member of a tightly knit pop rock group. Brennan's arrangements gave both ensembles plenty of room to play and breathe. Their was some fine solo playing. Peter Brennan's lead guitar work on 'Head Over Heels' was deliciously tasty. Jeff's Christmas made the complex and quirky drum patterns of Brennan's arrangement of 'Land Down Under' sound as easy as falling of a log. John Regan delivered some wonderful embellishments from the keyboard on many of the songs. Aaron MacDonald lit up the stage with some great sax playing early in the show and again during the encore.

If there was a star in this show though it had to be Kathryn Rose. As a backup singer she matches the performance of any stage partner with exactly what's needed. Her control of pitch and volume is perfect whether she's shading a vocal with an ethereal wrapping, matching it evenly or subordinating her output in a way that subliminally places the emphasis on the opposing lead. According to Peter Brennan she does it naturally. As a lead she grasps material in a way that only a writer of great sensitivity can. She was right inside of Fleetwood Mac's 'As Long As You Follow'. Her mastery of the articulation that Annie Lennox gave to 'Lay All Your love On Me' was eerie. Her performance of the Martin Page song 'These Dreams' which was made famous by Heart was devastating. The audience was applauding before the song was even close to over, again when it ended and again after John Regan stated her name. There was good reason for it. When she came into the choruses accompanied by by Andrea Koziol and the Orchestra they produced the kind of pure magic that can only happen at a live show and the kind that doesn't happen in a lot of shows that are really good. She said after the show that it was her first time singing the song. Amazing! Incidentally, one of her own songs, 'One Person', was what sparked my interest in the shows Orchestra London does with Jeans 'n Classics. One look at that and there was no doubt they'd be good. The only question was "how good"?

Hats off Kathryn. You and the others added another facet to the answer to that question brilliantly.

This show took place in Centennial Hall in London Ontario on Friday November 18, 2011. There's a repeat performance tonight (Saturday November 19, 2011. This review was written to convey and impression of what it was like to be there.

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Singer Kathryn Rose
… Absolutely OWNED 'These Dreams' …
Photo Courtesy of Jeans 'n Classics

Orchestra London:
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Jean's n Classics:
Official Site