Spy music night at Davies Symphony Hall with the San Francisco Symphony presented a cabaret with Sheena Easton and Scott Coulter, calling the program ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ and drawing from sources of theater and television as well as film and pop music. It proved to be another thrilling installment of ‘Summer with the Symphony’ which included last week a screening of 2009’s ‘Star Trek’ and an introduction by the composer live.
Related: Spy music night features Bond cars parked in front of Davies
The spy music night also began with a bang, with songs from lushly orchestrated and dynamic James Bond films and ‘Mission Impossible’. The night proved to be not only theatrical and engaging but a lot of fun, with two 1969 Bond cars parked in front of the box office. Patrons got up close and personal for photo ops and looks under the hood or in the glove compartment at the rifle. Indoors, the bar prepared Vesper martinis.
Related: ‘Batkid Returns’ SF documentary in theaters
The instruments of spy music
Two electric guitars, a set of drums and a piano took center stage in front of the orchestra, which rang out boldly with three trombones, a horn and a tuba. Bill Ritchen and John Imholz, mature musicians, played guitar and got to rock out especially to ‘Mission Impossible’ and the ‘Bond Theme’. A woman with shoulder length blond hair got her time in the spotlight as she performed the sax solo for ‘The Pink Panther’, which seemed right considering that most women in spy films get cast as a dame or a broad and often seem short lived. Outwater introduced a woman pianist for a special rendition of the ‘March of the Marionettes’ from the Alfred Hitchcock television show.
Easton herself seems to have kept her pop star brassiness and at 56 looks feminine, voluptuous and in voice. She’s taken care of herself although her delivery will probably seem softer and more mature than what one may recall from her 1981 hit ‘For Your Eyes Only’ when she appeared on screen. She’s age appropriate. Her speaking voice remains girlish and high and she seems to have the demeanor of a woman who has seen something of the world.
From pop star to cabaret dame
She appeared with her wavy auburn hair loose to her shoulders. She wore a royal blue lace gown with a scalloped v-neck and ¾ sleeves, the skirt in soft and feminine gathers to show off her curves with a slit in the skirt. She wore diamond earrings and a matching diamond tennis bracelet. She changed during intermission, putting her hair up and slipping into a slinky sparkly gown with a small train. She joked about how in Bond films there must be a formal dance and the Bond girl must get gorgeous within half an hour and feel confident, looking perfect.
The tone of the evening though elegant felt informal, almost satirical and campy, with Conductor Edgar Outwater noting the Bacharach sounding song was by Burt Bacharach. Outwater wore a suit as did Coulter, who removed his tie and opened his shirt collar for the second half. Selections announced from the stage included ‘Windmills of My Mind’, a song with lyrics written by the Bergmans for 1968’s ‘Thomas Crown Affair’. The original film starred Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway and won an Academy Award. Coulter also noted the plot of Roger Moore’s last Bond film, ‘A View to a Kill’, in which Silicon Valley is to be flooded and submerged forever.
Scott Coulter glib and engaging with a 1980s pop rock strength
Easton entered as a chanteuse and would show a range of emotion and style as a former pop star turned cabaret singer, having a Streisandian quality while Coulter bantered impishly and seemed to have an 80s pop rock star strength, reminiscent of Phil Collins. Coulter performed the song from ‘Against All Odds’ which Collins sang for the film.
Coulter chatted glibly but he emoted in pop tunes like ‘Private Eyes are Watching You’ and made comical gestures where he points at his eyes then at his subject among the audience members. A pair took their seats in the front row after his set began and he pointed them out as his targets. His spontaneity provided comic relief and it seemed engaging.
A woman’s point of view
Easton turned down the energy as she talked of how she found a rare gem first performed by Julie Andrews as a hot spy in ‘Darling Lily’. Andrews spies on Rock Hudson. She introduced the song as wistful, elegant, melancholy—‘Whistling Away the Dark’ by Mancini. Easton got a little more introspective performing a song from the English musical Chess, which had an American version. She noted while it seemed to have Cold War implications, she interpreted the song ‘Knows Me So Well’ as an internal argument in a woman’s heart and mind.
Although the conductor had to cut the theme from ‘Austin Powers’ due to time, Easton finished big with her anticipated ‘For Your Eyes Only’. It sparkled and shined. She also praised Welsh singer Shirley Bassey and sang Bond songs ‘Diamonds are Forever’ and ‘Goldfinger’. Easton performed the theme from the most recent in the Bond franchise, ‘Skyfall’, originally by Adele. Easton’s delivery seemed a little softer in each song and often seemed to have pop song gestures but she continues to thrill and bring to life the dynamic music from many sources.
‘Summer with the Symphony’ continues with an appearance by country singer LeAnn Rimes, live and acoustic on Sunday, August 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets to Spy Music Night ran from $20 to $99 with free admission to children under 18. Student rush and rush tickets sell for $20.
For more information, click SF Symphony.