Sometimes when I book tickets online I think afterwards “Oh bollocks, I wonder if there is another artist with that name ?”. Such thinking narrowly helped me avoid seeing James Morrison (who I had assumed was James Morrison). And in this case it had been gnawing at me that the Bill Bailey I was thinking of possibly didn't do many gigs with the BBC Concert Orchestra. Still, I'd given 2 tickets to Jess & Si as presents and another to The Puzzler, so now the stakes had been upped to the point where mistaken identity would've been even funnier.
As fortune had it, the Bill Bailey I'd dragged these unwitting bystanders along to was in fact the Belgian-scientist-looking comedian. A bit of a treat really, both for us as an audience, and for Bilbo – an excellent musician in his own right, who was clearly revelling with earnest about the chance to work with musicians of this calibre.
Taking the form of an observational comedy journey around the orchestral sections, the first half was a bit of a mishmash although fun. There were some good plays on image and preconceptions, such as of the oboe being an upright and respectable sounding instrument (which contrasts fairly starkly with the few oboeists I've met), and then a nice silly piece about the bassoon trying to subversively sneak Bee Gees melodies into trumpet concertoes. Bill contributed to the orchestral performance with some of his trademark excellent piano work, but also a smattering of Swiss Alphorn, and a bit of nifty work on the Theremin (really the only disappointing thing about watching someone play the theremin is the realisation that it's interface is a couple of antennae, and not one of those swirly blue plasma globes like it should be !).
The use of composition to highlight mood was demonstrated by sections of Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals (Fossils was one of them), and conductor & famed composer Anne Dudley followed on with her especially commissioned “Cavalcade of the Unloved”, for the less-popular species such as the wasp, the chameleon, and the jellyfish.
Bizarrely, whilst entertaining throughout, the gig couldn't really decide what it wanted to be, and you couldn't help but be conscious of the fact that much of the giggling during the musical passages was due to Bill's facial expressions or body language – all well & good, but it's probably not going to carry over so well for the radio broadcast.
The second half was fairly heavily atmospheric, such as the cop show soundtrack Bill had composed and was narrating as the orchestra played it (maybe this was all sparked off by his appearance in Hot Fuzz ?). There was also a fun piece about comparing news headlines of today against a news theme from the 50's – Bill seems to like the 50's and its cheerful family-oriented optimism.
Peppered throughout were the nuggets of established work from his Cosmic Jam, and these were nothing short of excellent – fully orchestral renditions of scifi doomsday prediction Insect Nation, prog rock power ballad The Leg Of Time, the anthem of global understanding Hats Off To The Zebras, and his amazing Love Song which I don't think really has a name.
And to finish off, the orchestra cranked out the Theme From Shaft – couldn't see a particularly good reason to pick this, but then why would you need one ? I wasn't sure about having the sexy girls' voices part being represented in this case by the violas screeching into their instrument mics (producing a sound which very much resembled Tim Brooke-Taylor mimicking a schoolgirl), but it didn't matter, and as the crowd went nuts you got the feeling that they'd be happy to sit in all night & listen to Bill. The orchestra had obviously run out of material however, and so it was all over.