A gig with a difference as Ian Huddleston performs tonight with his backing band of three and a 50+ orchestra in the wonderful surroundings of the Victoria Hall Methodist Chapel in Sheffield town centre. Not a place I have ever been to before but from the off its obvious the acoustics here are going to be good, as most churches seem to be.
A big crowd are queuing to enter as we arrive on this rainy and windswept evening but thankfully everyone manages to get inside fairly quickly. As we settle in our seats and gaze round at the very high ceiling and stain glassed windows the concert gets underway bang on time. The orchestra file in one by one and take their seats then Ian leads his band into the hall and onto the stage / platform behind the orchestra.
I caught a rehearsal for this concert a few months ago and Ian was obviously a little nervous then at how things would turn out but he looks the epitome of cool tonight as he jokes with audience and the conductor / arranger Martin Lightowler, who himself throws more than a few puns in when introducing various songs.
When the music begins the band has a slight edge over the orchestra in sound levels and that continues throughout, so the intricate passages of music played by the strings in particular, are lost at times, but overall it’s a great evening of music.
The first six songs are led by Ian singing and playing acoustic guitar, with some excellent electric guitar work and an impressive rhythm section courtesy of Ben, Gary and Matt. They are lilting melodic numbers, subtly added to and built upon by Martin and his team. All Ian’s songs are personal and Dear Boy about the newest addition to his family is a lovely track but its not a stand out number, as he has a very strong catalogue of songs.
The band take a break and the orchestra play some covers including a Green Day medley, the classic Bryan Adams number (Everything I Do) I Do It For You and then Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, which involves a fun crowd singalong, though singing ‘I’m a sex machine, ready to reload like an atom bomb’ felt strange considering the surroundings, but all the audience entered into the spirit of it and give their all.
Following that there was another six songs, some with just the band, others accompanied by the orchestra, before they bring the evening to an unwanted close. Despite cheers there are no more rehearsed songs to encore so we are left to remember the likes of the delightful Amelie, named after Ian’s first child and the excellent Say What You Want through to closer He Said, She Said.
An evening to remember for all who came, I wondered if Mr Huddleston could rewind about 5 years, when he was in full flow as front man with Leeds Festival playing rock band Viva High Rollers, and living the rock and roll lifestyle, could he ever have imagined such an evening as this ? Here’s hoping there’s more collaborations to come, but in the meantime Ian and his band, provisionally named Ian Huddleston & The Expectations, will be playing some ‘must see’ gigs soon.