A Tribute to Michael Jackson

Orchestra London with Jeans 'n Classics:

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Sunday March 25, 2012

A Tribute to Michael Jackson: Orchestra London with Jeans 'n Classics
Red Hot Weekends; March 2012

by Brian Hay

If there has to be a "last show" it should be a good one.

That was the case from the moment singer Gavin Hope opened the show with an energetic rendition of 'Billie Jean'. The rhythm section of drummer Jeff Christmas, bassist Darryl Stacey and Orchestra London's percussionist D'Arcy Gray established a dominant presence early and never relinquished it. There was a lot of subtlety in their work though, especially in some of the fills Christmas played with an excellent combination aggression and restraint evident in his delivery. Much of what Gray did was placed squarely between what was played on the drums and he did it beautifully. Conductor Mitch Tyler kept the presence of the orchestra subdued to serve the intent of the arrangements but the presence they maintained was a strong one.

The set moved ahead briskly. Through the first half Hope delivered inspired performances of favourites like 'ABC' and 'Rockin' Robin'. The latter had some delectable flute passages sprinkled into it. His performances of 'Ben' and 'I'll Be There' came straight from his heart. By the time the first half closed with a robust interpretation of 'Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough' the ensemble was on a collective roll. That paved the way for a second half where everyone shone.

They opened the second set with a powerful performance of 'Workin' Day and Night'. It re-established their momentum so smoothly it seemed as if the first half had never ended. Highlights included fiery performances of 'Beat It' and 'Off The Wall' Their rendering of 'Human Nature' was brilliant in all areas. Hope was a workhorse performing with the finesse and grace of a Gazelle. His skillful use of banter that was entertaining (and often hilarious) provided periods of rest needed to maintain the energy he performed with. When he wrapped the second set up with a driving performance of 'Thriller' he applied the dance skills London audiences have come to love with precision, and with passion that was infectious. Their encore was a stunning performance of 'Man in the Mirror that was assisted by the choral ensemble 'Vocal Fusion'. It concluded a brilliant show.

Singers, Katalin Kiss, Lis Soderberg and Kathryn Rose wove their work through, around, underneath, over and in and out of everything that Gavin Rose did with a level of excellence that was stunning. Their control of volume, pitch was impeccable. Their timing was perfect. When Hope entered into harmony work with them it just added another layer of perfection to what was already there. These people are as good at this as anyone. They're also all formidable soloists in their own right. Katalin Kiss gave a dazzling demonstration of that during a bit of ad-libbing between her and Hope.

Peter Brennan's work never ceases to amaze. The string players worked almost constantly but their presence was a subdued one. Their work served to create a texture to elevate layers of complex harmonic vocals above the work of the ensemble and particularly, the rhythm players. Bits of ingenious work from the wind and brass players were sprinkled tastefully through the proceedings. Keyboardist Don Paulton shone with some tasty piano riffs and drew a well deserved round of applause with a guitar-like solo drawn from his synthesizer. The dominant role given to the rhythm players created and maintained the pulse of the songs while offering far more. The effect was that of a wall of complexly layered individual sounds completely harmonious within the larger fabric. The relative uniformity within the overall sound of the arrangements maintained the cohesion of the program while individual nuances injected the spice to create highlights. Peter's ability to set this all up and to select performers so well suited to these programs is something in itself. What he's doing extends far beyond arranging music.

The ovation from the sold-out house spoke volumes about the appreciation the audience felt for what the two groups have done together, both on that night and through the years. It was richly deserved.

This show took place at Centennial Hall in London Ontario on Saturday March 25, 2012. This write-up was done to convey an impression of what it was like to be there.

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Singer Gavin Hope
Photo Courtesy of Jeans 'n Classics

Orchestra London:
Official Site

Jean's n Classics:
Official Site