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Horrorshow with Queensland Symphony Orchestra - Review from ArtsHub

★★★★★ If only all collaborations between orchestras and contemporary musicians were done with such joy and flair!

Collaborations between orchestras and just about everything from jazz, funk, pop and singer-songwriters can be the key to a symphony orchestra’s economic survival in 2018. Trouble is, it’s common to witness grim-lipped players enduring rather than partnering today’s beat benders as if they’re swallowing medicine they know is good for them but tastes vile.

Well this wasn’t the case in Horrorshow’s one-off gig programmed as part of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s WAVE Festival last Friday night. The Festival also celebrated daring fusions between the classical industry’s signature ensemble and The Kite String Tangle, poet Luka Lesson, composer Heather Shannon and the hip hop Horrorshow duo of Solo and Adit. The latter, of the same vintage as the Hilltop Hoods, celebrated its tenth anniversary with this gig.

One of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra ’s secret weapons is Tom Thum collaborator Gordon Hamilton, a musical chameleon with bonafides in the territories of Hip Hop and Classical music. His arrangements of Horrorshow’s hits were authentic, used imaginative colour and crucially, celebrated rather than patronised the orchestral force. The band powered up for chorused riffs, melted away when a sparser sound was called for and changed gear easefully in support of Solo’s crooned rap on the themes of life, love, politics and life. Hamilton also conducted and contributed convincing keyboard.

Baseball caps donned by Alan Smith, violin, trumpets, brass and hipster compere Paul O’Brien on bass signaled the willingness of all the staged crew well in the mood for fun. O’Brien on double bass was as much in his element slapping an improvised segment egged on by Solo as he was in underpinning Brahms E minor Symphony in a recent Maestro concert.

Solo, the laid-back, soulful narrator romped, rhymed and easefully merged with the classical instrumentalists that he frequently acknowledged and praised. His enthusiasm for the collaboration was in no doubt, as he cruised through the playlist’s tracks from albums Bardo State and The Grey Place wearing a tuxedo.

In several songs there were opportunities for ardent fans to wave their phones in the air, belt a chorus or hum a riff. Cued by Solo’s ‘Sing It Now’ in No Rides Left the deafening reply, ‘We ride till there’s no rides left. Ride till those no rides left,’ whipped up fevered excitement.

‘Ceiling Fan,’ ‘The Rain’ and ‘Eat The Cake’ fuelled by Adit’s licks, samples and scratchy turntable productions spiked with string, wind, brass and percussion created a fun, slick happening without compromising either Horrorshow or Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Encores, 'The Rain' and 'Cherry Blossom' thrilled the packed-out house.

What if you don’t like rap? Then, in Horrorshow parlance, ‘Leave it, love it, live it and be done with it.’