Album Reviews

The Cinematic Orchestra – Live At The Royal Albert Hall

(Ninja Tune) UK release date: 14 April 2008


The Cinematic Orchestra – Live At The Royal Albert HallI wasn’t there. Were you? If you were one of the 4,000 lucky ones to make it to the Royal Albert Hall – that great gift of a fancy and giant musical venue with all the prestige of a fantasy castle in the clouds – then I suppose you’re gagging to get your hands on this album. For the many millions who weren’t there, I feel your pain.

The fact that this was an epic gig in an epic venue doesn’t really matter when it’s just you, your headphones and a bottle of Wolf Blass yellow. Yes, it will be a nice reminder for those former audience members – something to keep the memories alive – but it is also just a beautiful album from the ever-inspiring Cinematic Orchestra.

Their blend of jazz, funk, hip hop and ambient loveliness shines through. You can feel the buzz in the venue, you can sense the neck hairs standing to attention en mass, you can even imagine an annoying guy in front of you doing the jazzy head wobble all the way through.

The Miles Davis horns, the film score strings, the most amazing drumming, which I can only imagine must be from some eight armed unstoppable drumming machine, the soft, roomy and woody piano – Oh God, why wasn’t I there?!

The playing is so superb, the sound of the audience clapping and whooping is the only thing that reminds you these guys are playing live. There’s no take two, no layering up a little to make a fuller sound. It’s all there.

The show took place on 2nd November last year, following a year of intense touring. The band returned to the city where it all started, but, this time, with an enhanced line up. Main man Jason Swinscoe brought with him the 24-piece Heritage Orchestra, and at times, there were more than 40 musicians on stage. Gorgeous soul-drenched vocals came from Heidi Vogel, Lou Rhodes (formerly of Lamb, and Grey Reverend, with the return of original member PC on the decks.

The sax solo on Ode To The Big Sea, followed by the whirlpool swirls of the thick and magical strings can leave you in tears, as do the dark, rich and emotional string arrangements of closing number Time & Space, with the onomatopoeic electro crackles symbolising the other world this music takes you to. The gentle Fender Rhodes, funky electric guitar, ’70s cop show brass and the tightest of tight, crazy drumming of Flite is another track where all you can do is stop, listen and…nope, that’s it.

This is not just a band – this is orchestra by name and orchestra by nature – and what an immense experience it is.

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More on The Cinematic Orchestra
The Cinematic Orchestra @ Somerset House, London
The Cinematic Orchestra – Live At The Royal Albert Hall
The Cinematic Orchestra @ Royal Albert Hall, London
The Cinematic Orchestra – Ma Fleur