Celebrating their 36th season, The New York Pops is something of a tradition although that’s where the formality and concert hall-predictability ends.
Billed as an exuberant evening of rock’n’roll favourites led by their effervescent conductor —and 10-season Pops veteran— Steven Reineke, it would have seemed that expectations had been well and truly managed: an evening of orchestrally-reimagined rock classics. But no. Nothing could have prepared us for the 100-mile-an-hour, slick-haired, sequin-trousered, dancer-flanked, mic-straddling force of entertainment that was Frankie Moreno (and band). He and his equally-sequinned musicians exploded onto the stage in a cloud of Chuck Berry, set up camp in front of the orchestra and launched into what was a thoroughly entertaining blend of songbook interspersed with a couple of Frankie’s originals.
As Frankie put it himself (one side of a change into even shinier sequin trousers), this was one hell of a ‘concert…well really a show’. True to that self-definition, Carnegie Hall’s aptly named Stern Auditorium was set on a collision course with Frankie’s Vegas showmanship with little option but to get on board with the joke-slinging and Elvis-crooning that goes with that territory. As is the way with these high-octane evenings, it can be the moments of calm which stand out and that was very much the case here with his self-penned ‘Some Kind of Love’. This was a number that could so easily be part of the opening shot over Manhattan in an as-yet-unmade Meg Ryan film: a song that evoked the best of Harry Connick Jr. blended with Frankie’s own sensibilities.
Tranquility was quickly trounced by Eleanor Rigby (another of arranger Adam Podd’s contributions to the evening) followed by xylophone solos, dancers, shout-outs to the Kids in the Balcony programme and a couples dance-along to ‘Stand by Me’. It was one hell of a show and testament to Frankie’s force of character, the Stern Auditorium got to its feet on more than one occasion to join him in the little slice of Vegas that came to town.
The rest of the 2018-19 New York Pops season is on sale now.