From James Bond to Simon Templar, screen spies have always shared a penchant for girls and gadgets, booze and bombs, and a specific musical language to underscore their high-stakes lives.
On Thursday, Edwin Outwater conducts the San Francisco Symphony in a sampler of some of the best examples of the genre in the concert “The Spy Who Loved Me” with guest vocalists Scott Coulter and Sheena Easton.
“Spies and private detectives are a little bit edgier and more dangerous than your typical cop,” says Easton, a two-time Grammy winner. “Private detectives and spies always seemed to have a dame in the movie, so there’s always sex and excitement.”
The concert is an idea she’s had percolating for a while, and she sees symphonies as the perfect way to celebrate the work of composers like Lalo Schifrin and John Barry. “During the instrumental sections, it’s wonderful to just sit there and feel all that passion and drama pulsate against your chest.”
There are those iconic theme songs, from “Goldfinger” to “Skyfall,” with their lush melodies and soaring vocals, which is where Easton has some firsthand experience.
“I love ‘For Your Eyes Only’ because it’s very bold: ‘the passions that collide in me, the wild abandoned side of me.’ You can get away with singing that if it’s a grand theme and the opening title is underwater and there’s all these beautiful leggy models doing all these balletic poses with the gun. C’mon! How wonderful is that?”
She may be particularly biased because unlike Bond theme predecessors such as Shirley Bassey, Carly Simon or even Paul McCartney and Wings, Easton was the only singer chosen by title designer Maurice Binder to appear onscreen while singing.
“He was one of the first artists to really see the opening and closing titles as a moment for art in itself and not just a place to run names across existing footage,” Easton recalls. “He wanted to make those moments an artistic statement and I think he really led the way with that.
“He wanted no movement so I had to express the emotion with just my face. I was standing or sitting with my head literally screwed into a clamp so I couldn’t move a millimeter and he could do these macro shots of my mouth or eyes.”
“It’s my little corner of Bond history that no one can take away from me,” she says. “It’s nice.”
IF YOU GO
“The Spy Who Loved Me”
Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Tickets: $20 to $99