CruiseMiss guest blogger Scott Rogers recently enjoyed a Norwegian Fjords itinerary aboard P&O Cruises Britannia, it was his first time cruising aboard the new-build ship and I would say that it probably won’t be his last. One of the things that stood out for him during the voyage (and something also close to his heart) was the music. He asked me if he could share a blog about the onboard musicians and of course I said yes…………….
Entertainment on most cruise ships revolves in one way or another around music. Whether it be an orchestral backing for the production shows in the theatre, a jazz quartet playing chilled out tunes in a dimly lit bar, a classical trio filling the atrium with soothing background music or a loud rock band blasting out fist pumping anthems in a show lounge; there’s usually something for everyone.
Throughout my 14 cruise back catalogue I’ve seen and heard a wide variety of performers. For me guest entertainers can get me going and can be excellent standalone acts, but as the cruise goes on I tend to always find I have a growing affinity for the hard working resident musicians. They aren’t always the headline grabbers, but they work incredibly hard and are often taken a little for granted. People can seem ambivalent towards them and polite applause is more likely than whooping and wild applause. Being an occasional wannabe rock star (of very limited ability) myself, I associate with all musicians and even find the good in a performance that others may complain about as I have sympathy for their plight. Often things out of the artist’s control can adversely affect how an audience perceives their talent. Playing in a large atrium with hard surfaces and high ceilings, for example, can turn a performance into a mushy mess of reverb that neither the performer nor the sound man can do much about. One thing is for sure though, the sound engineers will be working within strict limits trying to balance the sound for the average listener whilst trying to give the artist the headroom they need to deliver an exciting and dynamic audio performance. It’s a challenge and they do a great job working with such varied instruments and voices.
My first P&O cruise was a couple of years ago on Ventura. The resident resident band impressed me with their own shows. They were tight had a good sound and played a variety of popular songs, but on that cruise there was a Freddie Mercury tribute act called Steve Larkin. The band played backing for his two shows, stepping in to big shoes fulfilling the roles of the other members of Queen. Their performance was nothing short of sensational. They performed with great gusto really giving it their all, bringing the music and Steve Larkin’s performance to life. It was clear they loved playing Queen’s music. The crowd rightfully gave Steve Larkin a standing ovation for a wonderful performance where he captured the essence of Freddie’s personality and his unique voice. I myself stood and applauded not just for him, but for the band that gave him the platform to deliver that performance and also the sound engineers that put all the pieces together.
On this Britannia cruise I’ve had a similar experience. I hate the term ‘party band’ it has connotations of cheesiness and of Simon Cowell delivering a damning critique saying an act is “very cruise ship” in such a derogatory way; but Britannia’s “party band” is an absolutely class act and the very best I have ever seen at sea. I would even pay to see them ashore if they had their own show. The band in question is “Pulse”. They are a group of 8 immensely talented musicians and singers, each blessed with incredible versatility, stage presence and chemistry that all come together to deliver faultless performances night after night, often playing three or more sets across several hours. One night they might be playing epic songs from movies such as Frozen or Ghostbusters (their rendition and arrangement of which is great fun and put big smiles on the audiences faces); the next it could be a Motown set, an 80s night or a set of contemporary and modern pop songs ranging from LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem to Beyoncé’s All The Single Ladies; the Oasis classic, Don’t Look Back In Anger or the musical masterpiece that is Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk. Another time two of them might be playing an acoustic set. All of which they deliver with sublime skills, high energy, consummate professionalism and envy inducing talent.
I must take a moment to give a special mention to the drummer, Jamie, who has bravely been playing on despite having suffered a fractured wrist recently. Not that anyone would have noticed, he has been playing most tracks with just one arm. It must’ve been exhausting and very frustrating for him, but like a true professional he carried on and still delivered performances that would put a lot of lesser drummers to shame. I’ll keep the praise going too for Sophie whose vocal performance and incredible range on ‘that’ song from Frozen was nothing short of stupefyingly brilliant. I’d like to go through each and every band member, but as there are eight of them I’d run out of space in this blog, sorry guys! But they did all give unforgettable performances from stunning guitar solos, to solid thumping bass lines and thunderous drums; soaring, sultry and gritty vocals to rousing keyboard melodies. Of course none of this would be possible without the back of house staff; the techs and engineers who put on a dazzling light show and who balanced a complex audio mix that made the band sound so great in the awesome Live Lounge.
Congratulations go out to whoever at P&O signed these guys up too. They are a perfect fit for this amazing modern British ship; their repertoire caters to all manner of tastes and they are fresh and exciting. They are off now for a well-earned break but you should see them again onboard Britannia soon…except for one of the singers, Scott. He’s going home to become a Dad. Good luck to him, I’m sure the band and Britannia will miss him and I hope he explores his natural talent elsewhere ashore. I won’t be surprised to see him on X-Factor and if Simon Cowell says he’s “too cruise ship”, I think that should actually be taken as a compliment. This cruise ship has musicians and singers that are way better than a lot of acts in the charts right now.
Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the (air) waves!