Happy Birthday Mr Sinatra with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

Happy Birthday Mr Sinatra with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic at Philharmonic Hall, reviewed by Catherine Jones of the Liverpool Echo

Four Stars ★ ★ ★ ★

Both the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Francis Albert Sinatra have been celebrating landmark anniversaries this year – although sadly only one remains with us.

And in fact the Phil was already 75 when Ol’ Blue Eyes was born a century ago in December 1915.

The pair were brought together however in this final concert of 2015 (Sinatra represented by singer Gary Williams) and under the baton of the amiable Roderick Dunk, for a sell-out farewell to the old year.

A sell-out and a swinging out of the old and in with the new, not just thanks to Williams, but also courtesy of the RLPO which has proved yet again that it really is the biggest of big bands.

The Liverpool musicians are a versatile lot.

And the brass section in particular, augmented here with extra trombones and the addition of a small rhythm band within a band, appears to relish the chance to break out of its classical confines now and again.

It was in fine voice, with the programme presenting plenty of opportunities for brassy flourishes in numbers like Nice ‘N’ Easy, Come Fly With Me, How About You? (where the volume threatened to overwhelm the vocals) and I Won’t Dance.

In fact the only underused section on stage were the quartet of horns who sat and watched proceedings for much of the night.

The strings too came into their own with swoonsome, rippling effect in slow numbers and ballads like The Very Thought of You, Witchcraft and Moonlight in Vermont.

Williams, of course, is right at home in the midst of the American Songbook, his smooth vocals not exactly replicating Sinatra’s unique sound and delivery, but rather evoking it.

He packed a powerful punch in classics like The Lady is a Tramp and Strangers in the Night, but also showed a more delicate side and some excellent storytelling, with the little-known A Garden In the Rain an unexpected delight.

A genial joker, he also won over the audience early on with his between-songs banter and stories, even if some of the links erred on the cheesy.

The first half of the evening was marred somewhat by an all-pervading, high-pitched frequency sound, which was traced eventually to an errant hearing aid somewhere among the packed audience.

All was resolved by the end of the extended interval, and the second half reached a (frequency free) crescendo with My Kind of Town, New York, New York, and an encore of the obligatory My Way.

Certainly a good way to wave goodbye to 2015.