Gemma Ray – Live in Potsdam with the Babelsburg Film Orchestra

Last Saturday (25th January 2014), on what might go down in the history books as the coldest day of 2014, I headed out to the town of Potsdam on the outskirts of Berlin to watch a show.   The show in question involved a special collaboration between the Babelsburg Film Orchestra and singer-songwriter Gemma Ray (read more about her here).  The show took place in the grand Nikolaisaal Theatre (thankfully located just a short walk from the train station).

I reached the venue to find it packed full of people, mainly of the wealthy and old variety.  My heart sank at the thought of having to spend the night with these guys.  I’m not keen on the baby boomer generation (save for my parents, obviously) at the best of times, so what were they doing here?  From what I gather the concert was marketed as some kind of 60’s revival experience.  Dress up, take your mrs out on the town and hear some sounds from your youth.  Maybe it’ll be good enough to conjure up an acid flashback.  The lady sitting next to me had no idea who was about to take to the stage but was very excited with the prospect of hearin’ a bit of reverb on a guitar.  Cracking.  Nonetheless, these guys have cash (they always did), so it’s cool that they’re willing to fund such a project as ambitious as an pop-orchestral performance by an artist as daring and excellent as Gemma Ray.  It’s not totally unfair to describe Ray’s music as having 60s influences, but her approach to it is fresh, modern and even a little weird at times.

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Anyway, enough ranting.  Despite the company, the show itself was excellent.  Ray and band (including at least two Welshmen) were positioned front-centre while behind them sat the orchestra.  Ray’s voice is excellent live and the setlist was very good.  Her songs often feature proper orchestral backing and it was a treat to hear them performed in this way live.  This is the third time she’s teamed up with the Babelsburg guys and girls and I heard that this performance was recorded.

Stand out songs were ‘They All Wanted A Slice‘, ‘Snuck A Peak‘ and ‘100 mph‘ (they can all be found on the album ‘Lights Out Zoltar!’).  A couple of new songs were thrown in too, including one from an ambitious new music-theatre project Ray described as a ‘modern-day War of the Worlds‘.  Check out a version of one of the new songs that’ll appear on Ray’s forthcoming album below.  I wonder how the old fogies found it?

For anyone interested, the setlist is below.  Photo and cover photo via Paul Fyfe.

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