It was a full house at the Music Center at Strathmore on the evening of April 11, 2013 as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Michael Krajewski, prepared to pay tribute to the 50 year anniversary of the James Bond franchise with their concert Bond and Beyond: 50 years of 007. In conjunction with singer Debbie Gravitte, the orchestra and Krajewski provided the audience with a fun, campy night of tribute to the greatest spy of them all.
The orchestra opened the evening with the main James Bond theme, and continued from there with the themes of many of the classic Bond films, including From Russia with Love, You Only Live Twice, and so on. Interspersed with the songs was Krajewski’s humorous commentary which the audience loved, as he provided fun facts about each film, and joked with the audience. The orchestra played with enthusiasm and passion, clearly enjoying the night’s program just as much as the audience. However, their enthusiasm did not disguise that at times their playing sounded slightly muddy, not as crisp and clear as one might expect. Yet, overall, these were small qualms, as the audience seemed to enjoy the orchestra’s playing of these lush, beautiful themes.
Gravitte was introduced to sing some more of the classic themes, including “Diamonds are Forever” and the famous “Goldfinger,” Gravitte, a Tony Award- winning Broadway singer, seemed right at home with the famous Bond themes. She not only sang them, but acted them out with gusto and zeal. With her powerful, throaty voice she drew the audience in but it was her charisma and zest for the songs that won me and the audience over. Every song that she sang was a treat and a highlight, especially her interpretation of Adele’s “Skyfall,” which showed a depth and strength more than worthy of the Academy Award-winning song.
However, the orchestra did not just stick to the Bond songs; the evening was entitled “Bond and Beyond” and indeed some of the “beyond” were the highlights. The orchestra’s performance of “Concerto for Cell Phone” was hilarious and had the audience in stitches, as an orchestra member (the “cellphon-ist”) played certain phone ring tones at various points during the concerto, which tunes the orchestra subsequently picked up and expanded upon Imagine an orchestra playing the classic “Nokia” ring tone, in a full orchestral style! As Krajewski said, it is “the merging of art and technology in a unique and meaningless way” and indeed it was that—unique and humorous. It was truly the highlight of the night!
Gravitte’s rendition of “Secret Agent Man” was also a highlight. Her voice and saucy attitude were a perfect match for this song, but the true fun began when Gravitte entered wearing a perfect 60s “Bond Girl” costume—a flashy print coat, white gogo boots, blonde wig, and huge sunglasses—and began to “rock out” and dance as she sang. It embodied the camp and fun of the Bond franchise and had the audience in stitches.
The orchestra also played “Soul Bossa Nova” from the Austin Powers franchise, and brought down the house again with their fun rendition of the “Theme from the Pink Panther” by Henry Mancini. Truly, the atmosphere at most symphony concerts (regardless of the symphony) is formal, yet tonight the atmosphere was fun, relaxed, and humorous, and the audience was so engaged and entertained,
It was certainly one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had in a concert hall. And judging by the audience’s enthusiastic jump to their feet as soon as the lights went down at the end of the last piece, they agree with me!
Bond and Beyond: 50 Years of 007, while it performed for one night only on April 11, 2013 at The Music Center at Strathmore, it plays through this Sunday, April 14, 2013 at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall – 1212 Cathedral Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 783-8000, or purchase them online.