Listening to Michael Caine tell hilarious stories in a packed Royal Albert Hall was a wonderful reminder of how great craftsmen can create great art. He was charming, self-deprecating, modest, yet steely certain about the values guiding his career.
There were tales of childhood cruelty, as a young evacuee, and a continued connection with his mother and his upbringing which seems to have survived more than 60 years in films.1 The eyes were rheumier, the hands a little shaky, but his is still a compelling presence.
The limited rehearsal time showed once or twice (in Jonathan Ross’ links, and in the final Self-Preservation Society clap-along) but Ross’ deep respect and affection for the movies on show and Caine’s avuncular manner made a virtue of informality.
Musically, although the LSO weren’t really tested by the score cues, everything they did, they did beautifully. Highlights for me were Mike Lovatt’s freewheeling trumpet solo in the first half, and Phil Cobb’s crystalline cornet and piccolo trumpet playing in the second half.
Michael Caine seemed to have enjoyed the company of great composers like John Barry and Quincy Jones, who made a joyful appearance conducting two numbers from the Italian Job, and it was Barry’s louche, melodic style that made the biggest impression in the hall. Hans Zimmer’s pre-filmed piano playing for Time from Inception felt simultaneously intimate and epic, and the coolness of Craig Armstrong’s Quiet American score was impressive, but Caine and Barry seemed to connect us back to an earlier time of alluring swagger which still resonates today.
A considerable triumph for Tommy Pearson and the team behind the evening, and a pleasure to witness.
Royal Albert Hall, 1 Oct 2014