Superb playing, sublime moments and a dash of Sting captivated a full house at Sagebrush Theatre Thursday night for the fourth annual Kamfest.
Dominic Miller, Sting's right-hand man for the past 20 years, took the audience on a rare musical journey that won't soon be forgotten.
Doug Sage, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association in Kamloops, called the charity appearance "a bit of a miracle," an e-mail invitation to Miller that struck a personal chord with the affable guitarist.
Miller said he accepted the invitation to come to Kamloops because he has a strong interest in education. He also has a son who's currently working in that capacity with autistic kids.
Miller's band of all-star session players - including Guy Pratt (Pink Floyd) on bass, Mike Lindup (Level 42) on keyboards and Rhani Krija (also in Sting's backup band) on percussion - weren't just going through the motions half-heartedly, the way some groups do charity events. They delivered two hours of precise craftsmanship in the form of largely instrumental numbers punctuated by Miller soloing on classical guitar and friendly stage banter.
For those not familiar with their repertoire, imagine Jesse Cook meeting Carlos Santana.
Before a video backdrop of performance close-ups - with great camera work by the TV7 crew, who brought to the show the visual dynamic of a PBS music special - and scenes of nature, the band moved seamlessly through a mixed repertoire.
They opened with a couple of jazz/rock numbers from Miller's most recent album, November, before he switched to acoustic for a stirring rendition of Sting's love ballad Fields of Gold. The single from the 1993's Ten Summoner's Tales was the sole Gordon Sumner song in the performance, although they played a couple of collaborative pieces, including Shape of My Heart.
Miller's other acoustic numbers - J.S. Bach's Air on the G String and Lennon/McCartney's Day in the Life - were among high points of the evening. It was hard to believe this was the first time they'd performed the latter, such an anthem that it takes on renewed meaning as an instrumental.
The other players' solo offerings were no less impressive, particularly Krija's world-style percussion and Lindup's piano vocals. The final numbers of the evening were imbued with Latin guitar elements, a nod to Miller's birthplace of Argentina. These included La Boca of his first solo album, 1995's First Touch. A well-earned standing ovation brought them back for an encore.
My friend called it a mood concert, the sort of mood jazz/rock is known to conjure, but I think "mind concert" nicely sums up the effect. As Miller hinted beforehand, the show bore elements of a chamber concert - intimacy, serenity and, as Sage described it, beauty and grace.
Miller said coming to Kamloops for the event was one of the highlights of his career. And, he insisted, he wasn't kidding.
A short video welcome from MP Cathy McLeod preceded the show. It had to be a coincidence - what with the imminent collapse of the government and election campaigns in the starting blocks - but took on a slightly surreal tone as a result.