When legions of snarling Rolling Stones fans first dropped the needle on 1971’s “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” it’s a safe bet that few listeners settled in amid Keith Richards’ opening guitar lick, turned to a buddy and said, “You know what this song could use? An oboe.”
But, don’t tell that to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, whose BPO Rocks Series steered the orchestral ensemble into the vast catalog of Mick Jagger and Richards with Friday night’s Hot Rocks-heavy “The Music of the Rolling Stones” inside Kleinhans Music Hall.
Now, is it unprecedented for a band known for rock mayhem to be rearranged by musicians more versed in Mozart than Mick Taylor? Absolutely not. This was the BPO’s third Rock Series performance of the season, following their rollicking takes on the work of 1970s legends Queen and ABBA. The show’s architect, Brett Havens, boasts traditional work with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, but also has served as maestro for seven symphonic rock programs. In September, he rolled his alternative arrangement chops into town to lead the BPO’s bassoon-laden assault on Queen classics like “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
As for the Stones, Friday wasn’t the first time their standards have received symphonic treatment. Iconic classics from such albums as “Out Of Their Heads” have been notably rearranged by the likes of the London Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Oldham Orchestra.
The former teamed with such microphone-aided luminaries as longtime Jagger girlfriend Marianne Faithfull (“Ruby Tuesday”) to present Stones classics with more depth and texture then ever conceived possible. The latter’s angelic version of 1965’s “The Last Time” not only delivered a strings- and wedding-bells-heavy alternate composition of a classic, but also formed the basis for the Stones’ famous copyright lawsuit against fellow English rockers The Verve for their derivative 1997 classic, “Bittersweet Symphony.”
Based on these previous forays into Rolling Stones tribute, Buffalo’s Grammy Award-winning Philharmonic Orchestra and guest conductor Martin Herman had plenty of replicated material to study. But the BPO hasn’t become a nationally recognized cultural institution by playing covers. Over two hours of inspired compositions and reinterpreted rock favorites, Western New York’s premier players delighted the Kleinhans crowd – and gave Jagger fans plenty to pout and strut about.
Vocalist Brody Dolyniuk joined Long Island guitarist George Cintron and the orchestra’s fleet of violins to kick open the night with Stones standard “Start Me Up.”
From there, Dolyniuk duck-walked the set to a strings- and trumpet-infused take on “Let’s Spend the Night Together;” a viola-walled version of “Tumbling Dice;” and a crowd sing-a-long on the already orchestra-ready “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Throughout the show, Dolyniuk’s stage presence churned typically reserved Kleinhans clientele into an arena lather, bringing baby boomers out of their seats to dance under dim lights or shake in the shadows.
On “Miss You,” he stalked the aisles to not only sing with patrons, but also enlist them in his own Jagger dance academy.
By the time he joined the BPO to storm through “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the cello-backed “Satisfaction,” he’d transformed the music hall into his own Buffalo-set British invasion.
One after another, each ensemble piece provided a new take on a formative classic. And, one by one, audience members discovered multi-textured versions of songs they first discovered on a dusty turntable.