Steve Anderson: 'I've worked with Kylie on her world tours but the Lush! gig was amazing... and I can't wait to do it all over again'
Last month’s music event in Belfast, Lush! 20, which marked two decades of the Portrush nightclub, was the first event to combine dance and classical music and played to a sell-out crowd at the SSE Arena. Now musical director Steve Anderson, who works with the Aussie star, tells Karen Ireland why he will be back next year.
Steve Anderson, from London, is a world-renowned musical director who has produced music for legends including Sir Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson and David Bowie, but is best known for his collaborations with pop princess Kylie Minogue on her elaborate world tours and albums.
Yet despite such an impressive repertoire the 46-year-old says a recent event in Belfast was one of the best nights of his working life.
Steve, who started out as a DJ, piano and keyboard player, says Lush! 20 at the SSE Arena in October, which celebrated 20 years of music from Lush in Portrush, was a personal career highlight.
“It was just amazing to be part of something so special and which obviously meant so much to the audiences,” he recalls. “There were people there of all ages — those who had been to Lush 20 years ago mixing with those who had maybe only be going for the last two years. The music from across the ages bought them together.
“To see them dancing and screaming together to the soundtrack of their lives was something really special.
“I love to see music do that — and I absolutely love Belfast as a city.
“If any of the artists I am working with are doing a tour date here I always want to be there and be part of it, as I love the place and the people.”
The Lush! 20 event, which Steve choreographed to perfection, featured a 60-piece Ulster Orchestra playing alongside world-renowned DJs and live vocalists to a packed audience of more than 5,000 people aged from 18 to 65 last month.
Such was the success of the event it has just been announced that they are going to do it all over again on October 7, 2017, with Lush! 21.
“The event was such a success that there is no way we couldn’t do it again. The audience has such an appetite for it that the next time it will be much longer sets, it will be louder and we will be taking over the whole of the arena this time,” he explains.
Steve, who has been working as Kylie Minogue’s musical director for the past 20 years, says when the opportunity came up to do the event in Belfast he couldn’t say no.
“My role came through my friend and colleague, DJ Dave Seaman, who has worked alongside Col Hamilton, the co-founder of Lush, for years. He was invited to take part.
“Dave and I work together as Brothers in Rhythm and when we got the Belfast gig we were delighted.
“Col and the team at Lush picked most of the songs as it had to be bespoke to them and the past two decades.
“Then I worked on the arrangements and rehearsals with the orchestra and singers.
“We played a 75-minute set which was the first time anything like this has ever been done in Northern Ireland.
“I think the Ulster Orchestra were terrified of taking on such a challenge of playing dance arrangements with live singers and DJs. But as soon as it started they were dancing along and swinging their instruments and the crowd was loving it.”
Steve reveals that all he ever wanted to do was work in music and he mixed loads of tapes together and sent them out to every agency he could find.
“I finally got a job when I was 20 working behind the scenes, making the tea and running around doing whatever was needed. By the time I was 21 I was mixing for Sir Paul McCartney,” he says. While the names of top-selling artists roll off his tongue like a who’s who of the music business, he says celebrities are just everyday people like you and me and just part of his job. These are his work colleagues.
“I’ve just finished working on a Christmas album for Kylie. I have been working with her for over two decades and she is the sweetest person. She is exceptionally talented and a lovely person as well which makes her so easy to work with. She works extremely hard and puts 100% into everything she does.”
He’s done lots of work for Simon Cowell, including a new album for Susan Boyle, who he describes as a very funny lady to work with who is fantastically talented and just happens to have Asperger’s.
“The top musicians I work with are ordinary human beings who just happen to be extraordinarily talented,” he says.
Of shows such as the X Factor, Steve says he thinks they still have a place in today’s society.
“I think the show has changed considerably,” he says. “In the beginning they were searching for the next best extraordinary musical talent but now it is more about the entertainment factor.
“In shows such as X Factor and Strictly there will always be a place for the comedy/novelty act such as Ed Balls and Honey G. It hasn’t exactly been a great year and we have lost a lot of amazing talent so every now and then we need to just relax and have a laugh.”
Going to gigs is all part of a day’s work for Steve who has done some production work in the West End as well.
He admits he enjoys a small intimate gig in the pub with a great artist and 50 people as well as an over the top arena gig, such as Kylie’s, which feature swimming pools and waterfalls on the stage.
“The one band I’d love to have seen live is Queen. I really regret that I never got to see Freddy Mercury live. I am all about the showmanship of a gig and he knew how to put on a show,” he says.
Back to the Lush! 21 show and Col Hamilton explains: “Lush! 20 was the most phenomenal event I have ever had the pleasure of organising in my 30-year career. The feedback was simply out of this world. Social media went mad on the night.
“We had people fly in from all over the UK and Europe for the event and have been inundated with requests to do it again. This was meant to be a one-off show to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Lush nightclub, a true institution in Northern Ireland. We have even had enquires about taking the show on tour.
“Lush 2017 will be even more spectacular,” says Col. “There will be a further 4,000 tickets available and we will have longer sets, a bigger sound system and even more bars. And to top it off we have just signed Paul Oakenfold as a special guest DJ. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this game-changing classical club event and urge people to get their tickets for the next event soon as we are expecting another sell out.”
Fiona McDonnell, director of concerts and artistic planning of the Ulster Orchestra, adds: “We are delighted to be collaborating with Lush Classical once again. Our musicians enjoyed every single beat of the performance in October. It was an incredible experience and the response was amazing.
“Dance music is now firmly established on our ever-expanding playlist and we cannot wait to get back on the stage again next year.”
On being secured to play next year, DJ Paul Oakenfold says: “I am honoured to be asked to play at what sounds like an epic event. I have played Lush many times and think the people are fantastic. Northern Irish people definitely know how to enjoy themselves.
“I am genuinely excited by this creative mix of musicians involved in this project and I know the event will be spectacular.”
Meanwhile DJ Dave Seaman adds: “I have travelled the world in my career and have been lucky to play some of the biggest venues but it has to be said Lush! 20 was off the scale. There were a few tears shed that night. It was a gig I will treasure forever and I’m already counting down the days to round two. The Ulster Orchestra and the vocalists did Northern Ireland proud.”
- Tickets for Lush Classical 2017 performed by the Ulster Orchestra go on sale on Friday, December 2 from ticketmaster.ie, kellysportrush.co,/tickets and the SSE box office at ssearenabelfast.com/sse-box-office