All the usual elements were there:
- his amazing band - musical director Mason Neely on drums and guitar, Richie Blake on bass guitar and Will Stuart on keyboards
- a super-talented guest, Lee's good friend and fellow West End Man, Stephen Rahman-Hughes, who sang two songs in each half, as well as duetting with Lee, I particularly enjoyed his beautiful version of Joni Mitchell's 'A Case of You'
- great song choices - I often think that the mix of material really shouldn't work, but it does, the bounce of 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love', for example, releasing the audience from the stillness of 'Bring Him Home' before the intensity can bring the mood down
- awesome delivery - Stephen generously said of watching Lee sing: "always singing truthfully, with a lot of heart. It teaches me a lot about singing and how you should deliver a song, it really is beautiful to watch." Lovely words which echo my own thoughts... I also see Stephen's influence in Lee's own performance.
- and finally, wonderful company to share it all with, now as much a part of the enjoyment of a Meady gig as the concert itself.
There were one or two surprises too - the lovely Amanda Henderson, Lee's colleague from Casualty (Nurse Robyn), who joined him once again for the Wicked duet 'As Long As You're Mine' and performed it flawlessly. Lee suggested she would be joining him for the rest of the tour, as long as he's nice to her... be nice Lee, she's fabulous! Later, Stephen's liberty with the 'Luck Be A Lady' lyrics ("You might give me the brush" becoming "Lee's hair might see a brush") which brought the evening momentarily to a halt as Lee feigned outrage and his band fell about laughing.
But while laughter was frequent and hearty, provoked not least by Lee's innate ability to poke fun at himself (Oompah Loompahs spring to mind!), there were also moments of exquisite emotion... the simple and heart-piercing arrangement of 'Fix You', the tortured 'Hallelujah', Lee's nod to fatherhood and to his relationship with his own father with 'Bring Him Home' from Les Miserables and the beautiful Cat Stevens' number 'Father and Son'.
There were also a few challenges - the lack of a follow-spot left Lee in darkness if he strayed from the haven of his mic stand (which he does frequently!), while the almost constant, though thankfully well-controlled, dry ice, added to a hot atmosphere and a long week of day and night shoots on Casualty, left Lee with very little voice by the time he reached his much-loved encore number, 'Any Dream Will Do'.
My overall impression, however, was of a performer at his peak (so far, that is... I have no doubt there is more to come and look forward immensely to seeing it emerge). His relaxed style, vocal command, beautiful tone and immense heart make Lee utterly compelling to watch.
Despite the croakiness, the long and tiring week and the long and winding drive home ahead of Lee and his 'designated driver', Amanda, he still found time and energy to greet a huge crowd waiting at the Stage Door. It has been ten years since Lee's last visit to Barnstaple with the Joseph tour, in which he played an extremely young Pharaoh to Richard Swerrin's rather mature Joseph, but I reckon there were very few in tonight's audience who left without hoping it would be rather less than ten years before they see him again!
I've included the full setlist on a separate page to avoid spoilers for those seeing the show later in the tour and I highly recommend anyone who can get to one (or more!) of the remaining 2014 tour dates to get themselves a ticket or few as soon as they can!
Finally, as promised, just a couple of photos, thanks to the lovely Abs - the curtain call showing, left to right, Mason, Richie, Lee and Will.
Lee's full concert schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERT DATES
Last updated: 2 June 2014