St. Lukes Church
7th March 2009
We gathered at 7.30 in the small queue outside St Luke’s Church in Old Street, London. The church was renovated by the London Symphony Orchestra and is used by them for their rehearsals, and is regularly used by the BBC Concert Orchestra for their Friday Night Is Music Night show on Radio 2.
Brilliantly lit from the outside, there were no signs of what was about to happen inside!
We were ushered in and told to take our seats at the reserved tables which were at the very front of the stage. The building on the inside was incredible, beautifully lit in red, hi-lighting the incredible features of this old church. The stage area taking up half of the floor space because of the number of people that needed to be on it for the performance.
After the introduction, we were told to dance, stand up if we wanted, make as much noise as we wanted, and just enjoy ourselves. The candles on our tables were lit, the lights went down, 4 beautiful candelabras were illuminated and the orchestra walked on. It was the strings section from the BBC Concert Orchestra which consisted of 22 players and the conductor.
Next, Annie’s band came on stage, they were the familiar faces of Bernie (Keyboards), Paul Turner (Bass), Mike Stevens (Guitar and Keyboards), Tony Remy (Guitar), Steve Barney (Drums) and the three backing signers who I didn’t get names for, but looked stunning in their outfits.
| Mike Stevens
Then, there was silence, absolute silence, everyone was waiting in anticipation, the TV crew consisting of 7 cameras were so discretely positioned, you barely noticed they were there. More silence, the atmosphere was electric, the excitement was growing.
Annie was introduced and walked on stage looking incredibly happy and ready to perform for us. She was dressed in black trousers, her purple shoes and a cerise square sequined top. The first bars of Little Bird were instantly recognisable and Annie launched into a trio of her finest solo pieces. Little Bird, Walking on Broken Glass and No More I Love You’s. It was incredible watching Annie shift persona for each of the songs, how she got into character almost, and the way her vocal emotions and facial expressions changed for each track. It felt like Annie was performing in our living rooms, the acoustics were incredible, the orchestra and Annie’s band creating the most incredible sound, and Annie’s vocals somehow managing to soar over them all. Above all, Annie was in complete control, the orchestra and the band were all taking their cues from Annie in such a subtle way, but being so close to the stage seeing these subtleties, you can begin to understand just how complex and how well rehearsed each performance must be, and the craftsmanship of all of these talented people somehow creating this magical experience. The orchestra played on Walking on Broken Glass and No More I Love You’s.
Next up was the Eurythmics trio of songs, started with the unmistakable opening bar of There Must Be An Angel, Annie had that knowing look in her eye, she knew this was going to deliver and she wasn’t wrong, I think it was one of my favourite solo performances of this track I’ve heard before. The staccato strings of the orchestra started and led into a simply sublime rendition of Here Comes The Rain Again, Annie must have performed this songs thousands of times, and I often wonder how an artist does this, without getting bored, or delivering it as if it’s the first time its every been performed, but Annie absolutely delivered this track to us on a silver plate, her vocals just seemed to blend in an out of the orchestra as if she was just another instrument on the stage.
Annie then sat on her stool in the middle of the stage right in front of us, and a few of us recognised the alternative intro that was used at The Mermaid for Cold, again you could see Annie visibly preparing for the song, and I hope you get to see these brief moments when the show is screened, as they give you such an insight into what must be going on in the minds of everyone on the stage.
It was beautiful, and again accompanied by the orchestra Annie delivered a very emotional and charged version of the song, those piercing eyes were definitely showing the passion in the song!
Annie left the stage and walked to her piano set amongst the tables where a few of the forum group were gathered, literally sat around Annie’s piano. Annie adjusted her microphone and was worried she was going to poke Andy’s eye out which raised a few laughs. Annie launched into A Thousand Beautiful Things, which she played as she has done recently a little faster than the original, but a speed that I now really feel works with the song this blended very nicely into Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves which we know Annie loves playing at the piano and boy was it delivered with passion. Annie stood up and before she got back on stage shook hands with those gathered around the piano before returning to the stage.
We were then treated to 2 more Annie tracks, Pavement Cracks and Dark Road which were delivered with the emotion that both of these songs bring, just accompanied with the band, the songs seemed to both take on a life of their own. Annie seemed to be able to sing over her own echo on the turning back vocals at the end of Pavement Cracks and Dark Road again showed the versatility of Annie’s vocal range and power.
Time for the orchestra again, and I guess you cannot have the services of the orchestra and not perform I Saved The World Today, I think it took many of us by surprise but was such an obvious song choice and Annie really relaxed into the song, I cannot believe it is almost 10 years since we first heard this track on Peace.
Now, for a first, before the next track a drum was positioned next to Annie with one very large beater. The keyboards kicked into Ghosts In My Machine and the audience started dancing. The passion and aggression that Annie used in delivering the song was infectious and boy did she look angry when she was singing and hold her mike with one hand and beating the hell out of the drum with her other, this was raw passions pouring out from the stage. It is such a difficult song to sing live, and you could see Annie was visibly relieved that she’d nailed it, and to keep us dancing another surprise in When Tomorrow Comes. A delightfully energetic performance, incredible signing from the backing band ended the first part of the show.
Annie left the stage, with the audience absolutely wanting more, people who are usually very vocal were sitting in their chairs absolutely stunned with what they had just seen, Annie was on top form, and looked visibly to be feeding from the audience, but I think she’d take everything from us too!
The band returned to rapturous applause, and Annie appeared, now wearing her hat that she’s been wearing recently. Taken by the applause she took of her hat and laid it on the floor.
We were straight back on our feet as Annie launched into Shining Light, her eyes lit up and showed the fun she was having on stage, the backing singers delivered an incredible performance that complemented the complex arrangement of this song, Annie’s vocals soared as she looked up to the church roof, it may be corny, but she certainly was the Shining Light on that stage. She finished with a great pose, and had that great twinkle in her eye showing how much fun she’d just had.
After thanking the orchestra and band, Annie spoke saying that she needed to slow things down and we needed to feel what it was like to be middle aged. She introduced Why as a sad song, and Annie performed it sat on her stool. The passion and emotion that some say is lost in the song when Annie plays piano was definitely flowing and enveloped the audience, we just felt that Annie was singing to us all individually in our own living rooms, how does she do that, I’ve never had that experience with any other artist before.
Then, it was time for Jaws! That great intro from The Mermaid’s show of Sweet Dreams was back, the orchestra really delivered the most original intro to Sweet Dreams. The whole audience were up on their feet for this final song of the evening, we had the whoo yeah’s from the backing singers, and the whole band, orchestra, backing singers and Annie seemed to come together producing the most incredible amount of sound and music.
Annie thanked us all for coming and left the stage, we were numb, I don’t think we could believe what we had just seen and heard, we couldn’t believe the time, an hour and a half had just slipped through our fingers. No-one wanted to leave, we just absorbed the moment, and the smiles that everyone was wearing will last for days to come. No re-filming was needed by the BBC so we were asked to leave
There were a few people of note who were in the audience last night, Simon Fuller from 19, David Tennant (Dr Who), Beverley Knight and Allen Martin the photographer who took many of Annie’s photo from Bare.
We waited for a while outside, and Annie left looking very tired, she didn’t stop, but we were able to thank her for an incredible performance, and she thanked us all for coming.
Last night was one of the most sublime evenings I have ever experienced, the venue, the people who were with me, the orchestra, the band, the backing singers and of course Annie just somehow blended together to deliver an incredibly varied selection of music from Annie’s career. When this is broadcast and you all get to see this performance, I think it will be put right up there with Annie’s MTV unplugged performance, as one of the best performances of her career.
You can watch concert on YouTube at the end of this page.
Walking On Broken Glass *
No More I love You’s *
There Must Be An Angel
Here Comes The Rain Again *
A Thousand Beautiful Things \ Sisters Are Doin’ It
I Saved The World Today *
Ghosts In My Machine
When Tomorrow Comes
Sweet Dreams *
* – Accompanied by the BBC Orchestra