Stand by for Action! Gerry Anderson in Concert. Symphony Hall Birmingham, 16/04/2022, 3*** David Gray & Paul Gray

Finding ourselves queuing for our tickets behind a bejeweled woman (perhaps) in a blond wig and a pink ball gown accompanied by her butler, who sported a pair of voluptuous eyebrows, it occurred to us that there might be as much of interest in the auditorium as on the stage during this concert of music associated with the TV and film creations of puppetry and special effects legend, Gerry Anderson.  Alas, too late we had noted that dressing up and cosplay were encouraged, or we might ourselves have raided the drag box to similarly arresting effect.

Our host for the evening, a velvet-clad and user-friendly John Culshaw, preached to a receptive choir as he guided an audience of afficionados through an informed and informative retrospective of the multi-decade spanning career of this astonishingly inventive man, viewed through the prism of live music and projected clips from his iconic shows.

The concert took a chronological approach, starting with themes and songs 1950s children’s TV puppet shows such as Torchy the Battery Boy.  A quartet of engaging and characterful singers had fun with these numbers and set the evening off to a promising start.

As the, what increasingly felt like an illustrated lecture, progressed, however, the fun drained.  We moved on to more familiar ground: Stingray, Joe 90 and the main event, Thunderbirds.  At this point, it all got a bit samey. Martial marches abounded with the same dumdidlidum rhythmic motif.  These alternated with Austin Powers-like funky grooves and Burt Bacharach-esque string stylings.  Moving on to the 80s and Terrahawks, we got a score clearly influenced but really not inspired by the big budget film scores of John Williams.  This was not great music.

What was happening on the projector screen was much more fascinating.  The clips from the shows themselves reminded us of just how seminal and influential this stuff was.  Early in the second half we got some documentary footage of how it was all done.  I could have watched that all evening.

At the end of the day, this was a show for diehard fans and, as such, it seemed to do very well.  It just could have been so much more interesting to the disinterested observer had it had focused a bit more on the remarkable creative process behind the shows and interspersed with the more well know music and fun stuff from the early days. Oh, and ‘Where is Sylvia, who is she?’ – barely mentioned.


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