The ever-popular BBC Prom season is well underway, so we went along to figure out what the hell was going on.
The audience is standing!
Usually, everyone is sitting for a classical concert. But here, what would usually be the stalls area had the seats removed. Which led to less of a formal vibe about the entire evening. It meant people were a lot more relaxed about openly enjoying the music. Nobody crowdsurfed or stage dived, but the crowd’s enthusiasm gave the atmosphere the familiar feeling of being at a classic rock gig.
The orchestra actually played as if they were doing a gig
There was none of the elitist attitude you can sometimes detect with orchestras. The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra were definitely playing for the crowd, not merely playing to them. You could feel a metaphorical spring in the musical steps here, and the occasional flourish that accentuated the relationship between classical compositions and great rock anthems.
The conductor behaved like a rock star
Juanjo Mena, who was the night’s conductor, obviously saw himself as the focal point of the performance. He had the flamboyance of Freddy Mercury, the command of Robert Plant and enigma of Jay Buchanan. This was real rock star stuff, even with his back to the audience. You can tell Mena revelled in being in control.
The soloist and conductor had a vocalist/guitarist relationship
When solo violinist Tasmin Little glided onstage for Moerin’s Violin Concerto, she clearly had the sort of relationship with Mena that we’re used to experiencing between Page and Plant, Slash and Axl, Richards and Jagger. It’s as much about irritation as rapport. And it got unintentionally hilarious when both compete dat the end of the piece to see who can heap more praise on the orchestra. The frisson is such that you’re never sure whether the pair will embrace or hit each other.
There are moments of real heaviness…
And also prog-style arrangements. At times, Elgar’s Enigma Variations brought Deep Purple or Styx to mind while David Horne’s Daedalus In Flight had the sort of atonality embraced by Tool. It all emphasised the often overlooked connections between rock and classical music.
Still sceptical? Check out the Proms. They run until September 13.