Mark Ronson & The Business International at the Roundhouse, 16 February 2011

Tonight Mark Ronson will be joined on stage at the Roundhouse by his Business International, and a line-up of special guests so impressive and varied it’s almost difficult to believe they’ll all turn up. TV cameras sweep across the audience, hinting that this is going to be a big one.

Red-suited, Ronson steps up with his entourage of incredibly talented session musicians and his “favourite four-letter word” MNDR. Before you know it, they launch into the massively infectious keyboard riff of Bang Bang Bang. Playing their biggest hit so soon would, for most artists, result in a pretty dull gig for the rest of the night, but Ronson has tricks up his sleeve… Professor Green and Wretch 32 leap onto the stage to rap the verses, catching everyone by surprise and sparking a bit of excitement in the room.

We’re taken from one big 2010 riff to another, as Pro Green’s I Need You Tonight takes over the speakers. The crowd’s reaction is mixed – they’re either loving it or hating it – but no one can take their eyes off the stage.

All of a sudden what started as a Mark Ronson gig turns into an old-fashioned variety show. There is glamour in this gig – the men wear sharp suits, the women are dressed up to the nines, and Ronson is on a platform above the rest, surrounded by instruments. They are real pop stars: talented, beautiful and unattainable. After so many years of band-audience equality, it’s refreshing to have performers who are special, and just out of reach.

After a few renditions from Version the band leave the stage and Ronson announces to the so-far rather unresponsive audience that “we’re going to turn the Roundhouse into a club”. Explaining that he started out as a DJ, he mans a Mac emblazoned with “OOH WEE” in red letters.

For the next ten minutes Ronson gets everyone moving with a DJ set that sees him mixing tracks live and really showing off his skills as a producer. He mixes big radio hits of the moment with classics like Duran Duran’s Rio (the words to which are unashamedly changed to: “His name is Ronson and he mixes with both hands”).

Much to everyone’s (the star of the show included) amazement, it isn’t long before Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes themselves step onto the stage to bring their vocals to a few tracks. Ronson grins like a kid at Disneyland at the spectacle of having the men who inspired his latest album, Record Collection, performing his tracks.

The next star guest to arrive is Ghostface Killah, who gets up a good call and response routine with the crowd as he does Ooh Wee and a few too many of Wu Tang Clan’s hits.

The Drums’ Jonathan Pierce is surprisingly introduced next as the man who wrote more songs on Record Collection than Ronson himself, before finally the moment arrives for he and Boy George to take to the mic. Again, Ronson is ecstatic – he understands that having Boy George sing at your gig is seriously cool. George takes over the lead vocals for Somebody To Love Me in a rendition that’s better than the album version. It turns out you can say what you like about Boy George, but he’s still got that voice.

It all ends with everyone back on stage to take a bow and be photographed to death. This was a gig made up of surprises, and one that will no doubt stand out in this audience’s memories for years to come – whether they were a fan of the special guests or not.

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