Rockbrat Wonders: About rock bands performing with orchestras


Rock bands and orchestras – a mix that has never sat right with us at Rockbrat HQ. I guess I can cop it sometimes if a song requires orchestration – but performing live with a full orchestra ?  The obvious question that has to be asked is – why ? A band that is out of ideas? Yes. Indulgence?  Yes. A band wanting to explore the possibilities of a full orchestra playing their tunes in a classical sense ? Pass the sick bag. Apart from say, The Band with the Last Waltz, or Jeff Wayne’s War of The Worlds, I am yet to really hear any rock/orchestra amalgam that actually sounds convincing or is indeed, necessary. Can you imagine if Skynyrd did this? Or the mighty AC/DC? I think not. I find it amusing that an orchestra plays Metallica’s (now considered) classics from the early 80s. Acting like a maniac – whiplash! Though why not – everyone from Delhi to Jakarta to San Paulo is a Metallica fan nowadays – it’s a brand name as well-known as Man United or Pepsi. Now of course KI$$ did the orchestra thing – but I’ll save that for later. Its humorous and ironic that so much of Spinal Tap turned out to be true – prophetic even. Which reminds me – everyone is a frickin’ Spinal Tap fan nowadays too. I even heard a politician once use the phrase of “turn it up to eleven”, without knowing its context either, though he also used the term “moshpit” in Parliament too. Cool man. Funny how these once genre specific words crept into the mainstream. If it’s used by the masses, it will be used as spin by all and sundry rest assured – but know a phrases context before you use it verbatim – please. Reminds me of the time about 4 years back when I was dining at a Choynese restaurant at Eden, NSW. Whilst waiting to be seated, an obese woman (at least I think it was female) waddled  in and stood next to me and ordered a takeaway (takeout for those of you in the States) meal. Without missing a beat, she ordered large fried rice, some beef dish – and, wait for it,  Ho Chi Min. That’s right, bless her ignorant dumb ass. The Chinese waiter was only thinking $ so politely ignored said whale’s ignorance, yet I raised my eyebrows and had to stop myself from laughing. Ignorance is indeed – bliss.  So where was I. Yes. Orchestras. Well, as David St. Hubbins once said, “I’ve always wanted to do a collection of my acoustic numbers with the London Philharmonic.” I’m pretty sure Meat Loaf performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and Dave Gilmour has performed with orchestras. The pompous Chicago would have had to too.  Has Elvis Costello? How about Procol Harum live With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. God almighty –  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz snoresville. Whiter shade of sleeping pill. The world’s most boring rock n roller, the man with the most overstated relevance, Mr Lou Reed performed his “Berlin’ album with an orchestra – and it comes as no surprise that Crapton did a series of gigs with the London Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the 24 Nights series of gigs at the Albert Hall in the early 90’s (see comment from St. Hubbins above). In 1977, Emerson, Lake & Palmer toured with a symphony orchestra & full choir. FMD. Boring. Jethro Tull used to tour with a full string section live – and the egotistical, fat, heavy metal pie eater that be Swedish meat ball Yngwie Malmsteen recorded with the New Japan Philharmonic. Did he used to wear a battle jacket ? I think he did. He was SO BORING live, I walked out on him back in 1991 – should have pelted him with beer cans first.  I think America recorded an album with an orchestra – but I dig America so that’s OK. Didn’t Purple record a live album back in 69 or 70 with an orchestra? Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth? The Moody Blues with the London Philharmonic ? Now you know why punk had such an impact with the kids in 76 and 77 in particular. It killed off all this overblown excessive indulgence, thank God. Which leads me to the worst example of overindulgence and over irrelevant gluttony going around in 2013 (make room Lou, you old fart.) Last but not least – KI$$ of course found it necessary to do the orchestra thing. Their reason – no doubt – was only to make money, and god knows they need it. Kiss Symphony (or Alive IV) was a marketing exercise in bombastic indulgence that set it apart. Released 10 years back – in July, 2003, it’s a live album of KI$$ performing with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. This album features the Cat Man, but not Ace, who had too much street cred to play with a frickin orchestra. It featured the Imposter on guitar. The members of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra accompanied Kiss during this performance wearing Kiss makeup. At the same time they also wore tuxedos. Hilarious! In Act One, the members of Kiss performed six songs by themselves. In Act Two, Kiss performed an acoustic set with the Melbourne Symphony Ensemble for the next five songs. In Act Three, the band played with the full 60 piece orchestra on all tracks. Nothing says symphony quite like “Love Gun” played with an orchestra. No “I Love It Loud” ? No doubt too complex an arrangement for the classically trained musicians. They could have played a set of Elton John covers and the obligingly stoopid KI$$ fans would lap it up, wallets open.  KI$$ fans – the cohort  that dispelled Abe Lincoln’s theory about not being able to fool all of the people all the time. Who would have thought it. As a bonus on the CD release of this disc, bewilderingly, is the band’s god-awful cover of the Ramones, “Do You Remember rock n roll radio?”,  a band that KI$$ showed disdain for back in the halcyon days. The only redeeming point of the whole charade is that it was produced by ex-Alberts Angels / Divinyls / Gurus producer Mark Opitz. So there you have it – orchestras and rock n roll bands – a brief introduction. I’m sure there have been further examples of this unnecessary hybrid that have escaped me. We’d welcome any further contributions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s