‘Solomon Grey’ and ‘Above and Beyond’ enchant their Albert Hall audience
In the vast expanse of The Albert Hall, the two members of Solomon Grey sat in the middle of the stage, their keyboards set up to form two sides of a triangle, the spotlight illuminating them as they worked through the songs of their debut album, released earlier this year. The vocals were just as strong as in their recorded album (in fact their whole performance sounded identical to the recorded versions), and their music filled the Albert Hall providing an ambient backing to the conversation of the people filing in to their seats. The set culminated in their hit ‘Choir To The Wild’, with the vastness of the song and the layered vocals opening out into the large venue, building into the rich instrumental that brought the song and their set to an end.
The importance and significance of playing at The Albert Hall was certainly not lost on Above and Beyond, with many comments made throughout the show about how lucky they felt to be there and how much it all meant to them. To match with the supreme venue, they had planned a show of high calibre that was captivating from start to finish, including an extensive instrumental lineup, four rotating vocalists, and a light show and projected artwork that all combined perfectly to enhance the experience.
It opened with a sustained note being played on a glass jar in the middle of the stage, starting their aptly named first track, ‘Hello’. Then 17 other musicians and singers joined in to flesh out the instrumental and vocal melody, providing an introduction to the fantastic instrumentalists and array of vocalists that were to make up the night.
Zoë Johnston took centre stage first, with ‘We’re All We Need’. She stood at the microphone, with bare feet and a flowing black dress, as she was projected in black and white on a screen that hung above the stage.
It was definitely setting up to be an interesting night, an entirely different experience from what fans of the trance group might be used to hearing. While their released acoustic album would have given the audience some idea of what to expect, the live arrangements were so much more; the orchestral backing and the extreme builds and dynamics used in many songs definitely exceeded any prior expectations.
The arrangements particularly stood out in the songs sung by male vocalist, Cobi. For his first song, ‘Blue Sky Action’, his voice soared above a backing of strings, uplifting the melody as he stood in a suit amidst a thin veil of smoke and hazy blue light, charming the audience, with the people in the front few rows singing passionately back at him. To accompany the lyrics of the chorus, ‘The sun is shining’, the stage lit up from behind with bright lights that created an illumination that felt like sunshine.
‘Sticky Fingers’ was another memorable arrangement; a quiet start, with Cobi emotionally capturing the sentiment of the song. However it built into a huge climax, which unexpectedly saw the James Bond theme making an appearance, and sounded like an anthem to trump even the greatest of James Bond tracks; perhaps this will be their calling card to provide one for the next movie.
In fact the theme made yet another appearance later in the set when Cobi sang ‘On my way to Heaven’, which melded characteristics of a James Bond Anthem with the soulful croon of Cobi’s voice. When Cobi sang he had a real attitude, traversing the stage like a rockstar, exuding a natural essence of cool.
‘Peace Of Mind’ showed further the diversity of the set, with Johnston returning to the front of the stage while the music around her transformed the room into a jazz bar, with a piano backing and muted trumpet bringing the song in.
As an unexpected but enjoyable addition to the set, Tony McGuinness led the group in a rendition of ‘Black Room Boy’ . The gritty dancehall anthem was interpreted with a lilting swing beat that made it almost unrecognisable, but worked surprisingly well.
Justine Suissa was a particularly strong vocalist joining the lineup, and she brought in the encore with the very song that gave Above and Beyond the confidence to pursue their acoustic endeavours, ‘On A Good Day’. In turn it was met with overwhelming support from the audience, as people sang along, threw out their arms and cheered. Suissa was particularly grateful to have been a part of it all as she thanked everyone profusely for the opportunity.
The moment everyone was waiting for was of course ‘Sun and Moon’, of which Cobi was the inevitable vocalist. As gold confetti rained from the ceiling, the audience members pushed to the space directly in front of the stage and were singing emotionally and animatedly to the band and each other.
This was undoubtedly a special night that meant a great deal to everyone in attendance, performers included. It brought a crowd that ranged across an age group of around 6 decades, and connected everyone with the songs that have so much meaning, and The Albert Hall made it all that much more amazing.
This Above and Beyond article was written by Jen Taylor, a GIGsoup contributor