The syn­ergy flows as Seal pairs with Florida Or­ches­tra.

Tampa Bay Times - - Local - BY JAY CRIDLIN Times En­ter­tain­ment Critic Con­tact Jay Cridlin at [email protected]­pabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Fol­low @JayCridlin.

It hap­pened dur­ing My Funny

Valen­tine, the mo­ment when Seal and the Florida Or­ches­tra be­came one.

The Bri­tish pop and soul singer was ad­mir­ing the or­ches­tra’s ren­di­tion of the Rodgers and Hart stan­dard when prin­ci­pal trum­pet Robert Smith stood for a dole­ful back-al­ley solo. Slowly to­ward the spot­light slinked Seal, first steps away, then just arm’s length, lift­ing his mic un­til it was inches from Smith’s bell. The singer arched his back in a brief mo­ment of ec­stasy as the solo wailed to a close.

“What a great or­ches­tra,” said the singer, who head­lined the or­ches­tra’s an­nual gala on Satur­day at an all but sold-out Ma­haf­fey The­ater in St. Peters­burg. “It’s like be­ing be­hind the wheel of a hy­brid of the most beau­ti­ful Rolls-Royce and a Fer­rari. You say go and they give you back ten­fold.”

The four-time Grammy win­ner was the lat­est monony­mous pop star to join the or­ches­tra’s largest an­nual fundraiser, fol­low­ing one of his he­roes, Sting, last sea­son.

“Ev­ery­one looks so pretty and so well tonight,” said Seal, wear­ing a loose, ca­sual black top and pants. “Had I known, I would have worn some­thing a bit more sparkly. I didn’t know I was go­ing to be in such great com­pany.”

He was an off­beat choice for the gala, one that only truly made sense in the wake of his Great Amer­i­can Song­book album Stan­dards. It made for, in many re­spects, a clas­sic pops con­cert, rife with fa­mil­iar fin­ger­snap­pers like Luck Be a Lady,

I’ve Got You Un­der My Skin and They Can’t Take That Away From Me.

High­lights: The stir­ring, star­lit ro­mance and wall-of-sound per­cus­sion of Any­one Who Knows What Love Is (Will Un­der­stand); the del­i­cate flutes pirou­et­ting around the cin­e­matic It Was a

Very Good Year; and a 007-like Smith solo on a noirish I Put a

Spell On You.

Harder to em­brace, on the other hand, was the or­ches­tra’s ab­sence when Seal delved into his own back cat­a­log. For a good chunk in the mid­dle of the set, con­duc­tor Michael Fran­cis left the stage and the or­ches­tra largely sat things out as Seal played the sort of show his fans are used to see­ing. Not en­tirely — the or­ches­tra­tion was lush and lovely on Kiss From a Rose, which saw a cou­ple of en­thu­si­as­tic in­stru­men­tal­ists sway­ing and singing along — but by and large, the home team just sat things out while Seal and the band played like rock stars.

The ironic thing is, this was the sec­tion that en­livened the gala the most. Mul­ti­ple times, Seal hopped off stage and me­an­dered through the crowd, hug­ging fans and will­ing them to their feet. The ethe­real Prayer

for the Dy­ing was spell­bind­ing, Seal’s de­layed vo­cals echo­ing through the house. Same with Killer and cov­ers of Steve Miller’s

Fly Like an Ea­gle, David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel and Cur­tis May­field’s

Move On Up (which did fea­ture a fierce bat­tery of horns and saxes).

To be fair, it would’ve been nigh-im­pos­si­ble to chart out fresh ar­range­ments for each of these songs and still have this sec­tion feel so fresh and in-the­mo­ment. As Seal clam­bered through the crowd, lead­ing fans on a eu­phoric, barn-burn­ing sing-along of Crazy, what else could Fran­cis have done but stand sidestage and clap with joy?

Still, imag­ine how Seal and the Florida Or­ches­tra might’ve sounded if they’d done with ev­ery song what they did with Char­lie Chap­lin’s Smile, which Seal called his fa­vorite song of all time. As the strings swept the house off its feet, the singer, en­rap­tured, faced the crowd and traced a fin­ger down his cheek.

“Ladies and gen­tle­men,” he said after­ward, “please put your hands to­gether for the Florida Or­ches­tra.”

The au­di­ence cheered them both. For this night only, they were one.

Pho­tos by LUIS SAN­TANA | Times

Grammy-win­ning record­ing artist Seal per­forms at a gala with Michael Fran­cis con­duct­ing the Florida Or­ches­tra at the Ma­haf­fey The­ater in St. Peters­burg.

I’ve Got You Un­der My Skin.

Seal, a four-time Grammy win­ner, joined the Florida Or­ches­tra’s largest an­nual fundraiser on Satur­day, mak­ing for a clas­sic pops con­cert with hits like

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