Union Chapel – 11.09.18

If you were to run up to unassuming members of the public with a microphone like one of Ellen DeGeneres’s daytime TV cronies, and asked them who Craig Armstrong was, you’d likely be met with dumbstruck faces. However, if you followed that up with a mention of The Great Gatsby, Love Actually, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge I’m sure you’d get their attention and heartfelt reaction.

And part of that reaction would be to each film’s fantastic score compositions, and that’s where the credit lies with Mr Armstrong.

We caught him at the absolutely stunning Union Chapel in London. The venue combines stunning interiors, stained glass and whimsical archways, but also a bar – now that’s a religion I can get on board with. Taking a pew (literally) you can’t help but take in your surroundings. The grand piano on stage surrounded by a dramatic mist as the dying light shines through the high windows. Add some studio lights and Matthew Kelly, and you’ve got an ecclesiastical Stars in their Eyes format.

The first piece of the evening is a score arrangement from The Great Gatsby. Though Armstrong is absent from the stage, the music speaks for itself and you would hear a pin drop in the echoing chapel. Once the piece is complete Armstrong emerges from the sidelines (the bar to be precise – what a Scotsman) to a very respectable applause.

I’d say that the evening is lacking in the “hits” but the material from Armstrong’s new album Sun on You more than makes up for it. And at the end of the night we still got Glasgow Love Theme – I feel there’d be uproar if we didn’t. In between, guests including Jerry Burns, Hero Fisher, Katie O and Car Share star Guy Garvey deliver vocals, each bringing spiritual, almost sermon-like performance fit for the space. While the aforementioned Love Actually heartbreak-moment (there are audible sniffles) is a standout, with the London Contemporary Orchestra led by Robert Ames bringing the scene to life, the evening closes with a unique piece written for the venue’s organ, naturally.

Self admittedly not a showman, Craig Armstrong remains charming and humorous throughout the evening, taking well timed moments to address the audience with quips and stories.

Even if he was late back to the second half because he was chatting with Guy Garvey in the bar.

I think we can forgive him.

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