As I started telling you yesterday, my friend Brandon plays bass for Andy Williams. Most of the year this means playing almost daily shows at the Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri. But, fortunately for me the show was on the road and booked a one-night-only show in London at the Royal Albert Hall. The RAH is big time. I’m just tickled to get to say I know someone playing on that stage. I was already in London on Monday for a work meeting, so I left a bit early (walking out on Steve Ballmer) to make it across town to the concert.
Mr Williams brought his rhythm section and backup singers from America, but hired a full horn section of local studio musicians, as well as having the musical director of Strictly Come Dancing playing the string parts on keyboard. The show was really enjoyable. The first half was good, but things really got rolling after the interval. He did a string of his most popular standards, which the crowd really got into. When he did “Can’t take my eyes off you” the crowd was singing along, swaying back and forth and quite a few hands were in the air. This from a 60 year+, relatively stodgy looking British audience. I’m pretty certain the drinks consumed at the interval helped.
To be honest, before Brandon told me he’d be in town I had never heard of Andy Williams. I’m just too young. I read up on him, and his music on Wikipedia so had an idea of what he did. During the concert, it was great to hear lots of songs that sounded familiar. I’m sure I had heard them before, and was actually familiar with his voice, I just didn’t ‘know’ that they were sung by Andy Williams.
After the show I got to go backstage. By the time I got back around to the stage door a small crowd of fans was gathered, waiting for the star to emerge. I felt very strange pushing through the crowd to go in.
I got a skeptical look from the woman at the desk, but when I gave my name she handed me an envelope with my pass. I had to soft of stumble around to find Brandon, getting wary looks from all the security guys along the way.
My post-concert conversation with Brandon revealed a few insider tidbits – and a unique perspective of an American musician playing their first English gig. We discussed the decided change in tone of the concert, and the crowd, after the interval. Besides the fact that the big ‘hits’ were designed to build to a climax in the second half of the concert I suggested that interval refreshments likely helped the mood of the audience. Brandon and the band had not been briefed about the British drinking culture and were pretty surprised when the horn section hit up the backstage bar at the interval to toss a couple back. (Drinking while on duty in Branson is a no-no.) Seems both the audience and the act were getting loosened up over intermission!
After Brandon packed up we headed outside, so he could catch the band’s van back to the hotel. He had to push through the crowd, which had now grown to quite a big one, and I pressed through following behind. No one took our pictures or asked for our autographs. I was a little bit disappointed, I have to admit.
Anyway – it was a great time getting to see my old bandmate play on such a big stage in London. Congrats to Brandon and hope to get to see you in another show soon!