As part of its 60th birthday celebrations, the Royal Northern Sinfonia is on a mission to showcase its talent and versatility and at the Sage Gateshead they teamed up with bright young North East rock 'n' pop acts to add a touch of class (ical) to their work.
First up was the up and coming Martha Hill whose soaring vocals and quirky catalogue set the Sinfonia a challenge to which it was more than equal. If you haven't caught Ms Hill live, she's well worth a listen. Spiders and Blindfold particular favourites, but THAT voice in the perfect acoustics of the Sage was glorious.
With Martha Hill the vocals are immense and the Sinfonia's job was to step back and let her voice do the work. Up next was Sunderland's Field Music and with them it was about complementing and adding depth.
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As David Brewis, one of the founders of Field Music, said before the gig, he hoped the orchestral arrangement would be "like putting on your 3D glasses for a film you've only ever watched on the TV." The eighties-inspired tracks were given the hoped-for depth in spades.
Open Here, already touched with a classical sound, was elevated to greater heights by the Royal Northern Sinfonia touch ... Field Music's 80s sound was given a burst of the 1880s which added a richness that worked well and was appreciated by a healthy North East crowd.
The rise from scribbling their first songs in their bedroom to walking on the Sage One stage with a full-scale chamber orchestra pulling the strings in the background was not lost on the bands who, at times, were clearly in awe of the soaring sound carrying their tunes across the auditorium.
The evening was closed by the pop rocksters Maximo Park with the energetic Paul Smith doffing his trademark hat to the Sinfonia's celebrations.
After ladling syrupy richness on Hill and Field Music, it was time for the RNS to pull out the big guns and try to match the energy the band bring to the stage.
The crash, bang, wallop of Maximo Park's back catalogue was given added oomph by the orchestra in what proved a lively and hugely entertaining finale to a fantastic evening.
The gentler NXNE written for the Great Exhibition of the North worked well, but is was the rockier Books from Boxes and Our Velocity that stretched the orchestra and got the audience on the edge of their seats.
By the time they closed the set with Apply Some Pressure the audience were off their seats and the place was absolutely rocking. Which given the title of the show (RNS Rocks), was exactly what was intended. Job done!