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2006-05-26 Finchley, London

"Friday night is music night", BBC Radio 2
Reviewed by John

I managed to get tickets to attend 'Friday night is music night' in Finchley last Friday night. It is customary to over-issue tickets for recorded shows, and imperative to get there way in advance of admission time to ensure you get in; in this case, there were actually a few seats left empty throughout.

 

The venue was Finchley Arts Depot, in darkest North London. It's a modern and airy theatre, the stage is very large, the auditorium medium sized, nicely modern and very comfortable indeed.

I had never been to a live national radio recording before this, and I have to say it is rather unnerving to hear the live BBC Radio 2 broadcast and then see the compere in front of your eyes knowing that the programme is being broadcast the length and breadth of the country at the same moment; and, as I have of course learned since, across many continents by virtue of the web.

The compere was Paul Gambaccini, whom I know far better as a popular music DJ (better known by his nickname The Great Gambo during the 1970s). There is a tenuous link to the CTs through his university studies - he was at Oxford concurrently with another fan, Bill Clinton - and it was of him, and not the future President of the United States, that his contemporaries wrote ''The American most likely to succeed.' I guess we could say they both did in their own ways.

I have to be very partisan here, and extol the virtues of the BBC Concert Orchestra. We entered the auditorium at around 6.50 for a 7.30 VERY prompt start - the musicians took their seats at about 7.20, Bette Midler's favourite sound followed (the warming up and tuning in of instruments), but from the instant the opening announcement was made, each and every musician played with such composure and artistry, it made my chest swell with pride. When the BBC do things well, they do them very well, and this orchestra is superb. Note perfect throughout. The other guest artistes were Mexican acoustic guitarists Rodrigo y Gabriela, whom we were told had recently topped the Irish charts. I found their fiery Latin rhythms irresistible (but I did manage to stay sitting down), and clearly the rest of the audience thought so too. And for those who did listen via the web, the clicking and clunking noises at the beginning of their first number occurred when they plugged their guitars in. It is no surprise to me at all that they have already achieved popular success - I suspect they may be worth watching out for - they are extremely talented, and actually seem to enjoy their work immensely.

The CTs sang four numbers, in order Spanish Lady (with some helpful post-song lyrical guidance from Mr. Gambaccini), Non siamo isole, You raise me up, and All out of love. Having the flow of repertoire broken after each individual song can tend to inhibit an audience's growing appreciation of an act with whose work they might not be familiar, but certainly there was an immediate rapport from that upbeat first song.

Of course it doesn't hurt that they all looked exceedingly smart, and that they all smile a great deal. And that night, they looked confident and highly poised. If there were live broadcast nerves, they certainly didn't show. And carrying through the relaxing theme, I noticed there was a nice, easy familiarity between the tenors and Paul Gambaccini (who sat at the edge of the stage when not making announcements). Niall seemed transported during 'Non siamo isole', and Matthew and James both attacked their respective solo and harmony parts with utter precision. 'All out of love', with its vocal pyrotechnics, brought the house down, as it always does. Tumultuous is the best way to describe its reception; and rightly so.

So......too short, and way too quickly over, but never mind the quantity, feel the quality.