Concert Review: The Hallé 80s Big Night Out at the Royal Concert Hall

Words: Ian C Douglas
Friday 20 January 2023
reading time: min, words

Ian C Douglas reviews The Hallé 80s Big Night Out...


Nothing sells like nostalgia, so why not do a classical music take on eighties pop? Why not indeed! So, Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra invites audiences of a certain age for a musical jaunt down memory lane.  

The Hallé’s Big Night Out was fronted by two singers. Oliver Tompsett, who is a veteran of London’s West End and cabaret artist Alison Jiear, known for Britain’s Got Talent. So, we were in capable and confident hands from the get-go.

This was not the eighties of synth pop, Hi NRG, rock, indie, post-punk, hip hop or even disco (Sylvester anyone?). This was more the eighties of power ballads, R&B and our old friends Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Highlights among the twenty songs covered included Queen, Barry Manilow, Weather Girls, Bonnie Tyler, Rick Astley and one superb David Bowie track.

Meanwhile, the orchestra were getting into the swing with some fancy dress. Mario was on French horn, a Buggles lookalike on percussion, conductor Steve Bell donned a Rubik’s Cube, while the pianist came in a Martin Fry-esque gold suit. The packed auditorium was full of eighties-wear too: Katharine Hamnett t-shirts, legwarmers and spandex all round.

That was very rock and roll

Oliver and Alison did a great job of rousing the concertgoers. They had plenty of charisma and chemistry working together. And a few laughs, not least one cheeky misplaced hand during a duet that had this reviewer snorting with laughter. 

Towards the end, the lead guitarist and the pianist (with a guitar keyboard) stood up and joined the singers as though a band. That was very rock and roll and the went down well with the crowd.

As Noël Coward said in Private Lives, “It's extraordinary how potent cheap music is.” Although ‘popular’ might be a better word than his somewhat snooty use of ‘cheap’. Either way, the tunes were infectious and there were spontaneous outbreaks of dancing in the seats. By the end, almost everyone was up and bopping. The 80s generation might be getting a little rusty around the edges, but we still know how to have a good time.  

Yup, the Hallé’s Big Night Out was a great night out. Recommended.     

The Hallé’s Big Night Out concert took place at the Royal Concert Hall on Thursday 19 January

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