The Pop Power Orchestra at The Apex, Bury St Edmunds

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Review By Stewart Filbey

They have the Power!

On Sunday 2nd June, a gorgeous summer afternoon, I made the 2-hour journey to The Apex in Bury St Edmunds to support my very good friend Alex Jenner who would be making her debut as female lead vocalist for the Pop Power Orchestra. This passion project, over 3 years in the making, and I’m sure many more in the imagination, was created by Nick Jackson. This was the first live performance in what is technically a home-town gig for several members of the group that live locally. No pressure tonight then!

The Pop Power Orchestra consists of 18 members, with drums, percussion, 2 guitarists, bass, and a huge horn section supporting 2 vocalists. The show was mainly a tribute to the 60s and 70s with a few newer musical covers, in which the tracks have been fully rearranged to incorporate a full orchestra and brass section. This gives each track a timeless feel and a live energy that is difficult not to appreciate. The work that has gone into reconstructing some of the tracks has been a pure labour of love and makes this performance unique.

It is a huge stage and performance area at The Apex and every inch of the stage was utilised by the band, with Alex and Nick taking centre stage. There were performance areas front and centre stage so each member could come out and show case their individual talent and perform their own solo parts for various tracks, whether that was a sax solo, trumpet or trombone, every person had their moment in the spotlight! And each member came out and did exactly what they needed to do flawlessly.

The setlist was on the more obscure side – there were extremely well-known tracks alongside lesser-known tracks from artists we all know. The care that had gone into the arrangements, alongside the unique performance style gave each track a whole new lease of life. Now, I will not go through the entire set track by track as I feel the Pop Power Orchestra is better experienced going in ‘blind’ – that will give a real element of unpredictability and surprise for spectators of all ages. But I will certainly mention my personal highlights.

After a fantastic introduction to the band and them entering on stage we were treated to a re-creation of The Man Who Sold the World made famous by Nirvana, which was a fantastic take on a very well loved track, closely followed by an epic rock instrumental of the soundtrack to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This really got the crowd fired up, after all, everyone of all ages knows James Bond and the epic scale of what a James Bond theme is and this hybrid version did not disappoint especially in the grand setting of the Apex! This was quickly followed by the James Bond theme smash that is Live and Let Die, which we all know when scaled up to orchestra level, is an event in itself!

But then the set took a turn and focus was on Alex Jenner – this next track would be where she truly shone, and Night and Day was belted out to the rafters with her voice filling every nook and cranny of the auditorium. All I can say is that Alex made it her song, it doesn’t matter who sang it before as far as I am concerned, she owned this track. It was a fantastic spectacle! This was followed by Good Old-Fashioned Lover and Get Happy. We had a few more tracks before a well-earned interval for the band who had played their hearts out for 45 mins.

After a quick break and costume change, they were back at it. Nick was a fantastic host and engaging with all who had come out to watch the show and proceeded with quite a rarity At The

Sign of the Swinging Symbol, which was followed up by a stunning version of Whole Lotta Love which needs no real introduction, but again, the brass and horn sections made this an epic treat. Even for those that are not fans of rock, everyone could appreciate the scale of the performance.

Track after track was expertly delivered by every member of the band and Nick’s energy spilled over into the crowd and everyone was on the Pop Power Orchestra wave, as each band member took to front and centre and had their moment to shine in various parts of the set. It was clear any pre-show nerves had disappeared. We were then treated to a seductive version of You Might Need Somebody, a Randy Crawford Classic that again Alex managed to turn into a powerful live experience. It was sexy, seductive and powerful. She made the stage hers and owned it – the crowd was in awe, and it felt like being wrapped in a warm blanket of vocals. The last few tracks played out as well as the rest of the set and Nick kept the audience engaged to the final note.

To summarise, I would have to say that the Pop Power Orchestra are a collection of fantastically talented musicians who are at the top of their game. Each member contributed to a truly epic night of live music and unique takes on very familiar tracks. It was enjoyable from start to finish. It is no secret that I am not a particular fan of cover bands playing out tracks like- for-like, but this is a very different experience and one that would entertain any fans of music and live performance. If the Pop Power Orchestra is in town, take the time to treat yourself to a gig that is a little different but very familiar, with a setlist and line-up on stage that is bold, fun and epic!

A fantastic Sunday night out and a huge pat on the back to everyone involved. I have to admit, when someone on stage says ‘This track has fantastic guitar parts, but we have rearranged them with added brass’ … I do worry! But I am pleased to report that this was in no way detrimental to the tracks, rather a hybrid version of some classic records we all love, created to give you a new experience of those tracks – and it really does work. I highly recommend taking family of all ages, or music connoisseurs, for a live performance that provides an awesome spin on loved classics, and absolutely rocks.

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