LEE MEAD .. SOME ENCHANTED EVENING
Excitement had been mounting for Lee's new tour since he first started speaking of its 'golden age of Hollywood' theme last year, and the sell-out warm-up gigs at London's Pheasantry in late June did nothing to lessen the anticipation. Last night in Bedworth, where Lee's last concert in 2013 was part of the venue's 40th Anniversary celebrations, the spell was cast unleashing the enchantment that will weave through the rest of this year and on into next, when Lee's new album (of the same name) is due for release, just in time for Mothers' Day!
But that's in the future, first let me see whether I can evoke a little of last night's magic for you... the lights dimmed as the band took their places on the very low Civic Hall stage, a four-piece with double bass (Ashley John Long) and sax/flute/clarinet (Rhys Taylor) adding new dimensions to the stripped back arrangements we enjoyed at the Pheasantry, where only piano (Michael Riley) and the drums/acoustic guitar (and occasional ukulele) of musical director Mason Neely could be squeezed onto the tiny stage. They were greeted by applause which stilled briefly as they started to play, erupting again as a familiar figure slipped quietly from the wings and walked to his mic stand centre-stage. Sharp suit, crisp white shirt... the formality softened a little by that mop of curls (badly needing a cut according to Lee but they looked just fine to me!), which at times the lights behind him turned to a halo of pink or red or gold. He said hello, breathed in and started to sing, his voice like velvet - warm and luxurious, caressing the words of his opening number 'Where or When', which starts softly but builds to a crescendo that showed, just in case there was any doubt, that Lee was in very fine voice.
I have as usual included a full setlist but in an attempt to preserve the element of surprise for those of you yet to see the concert and strong enough to resist the spoilers, I will refrain from naming too many tracks. Lee spoke of how he selects the songs for his tours and albums, working with Mason to find those he really connects with as he believes that's how he can best give something of himself to the audience. It was a task he found particularly difficult with such a deep vein of material to mine, songs he has known and loved since he was a child, but the audience is richly rewarded for his diligence as every song chosen has meaning to him, often intensely personal, and his honesty in sharing those feelings both verbally and through the songs themselves, is one of the things that makes him such a compelling live performer.
The two that touch me most do so for very different reasons - one allows Lee to celebrate emerging from an extremely tough period of his life to a very good place... I have long loved 'Feeling Good' but I've never heard it sung with such utter conviction, and it certainly feels good to hear it. The other tells the flip side, the eternal pain of a father who can no longer be there each night to kiss his child and sing her to sleep... Billy Joel's 'Lullabye (Goodnight, my Angel)', written for his daughter at a similar time in his life, is sung by Lee with exquisite feeling. They both brought a tear to the eye.
Lee was supported in Bedworth by two guests - his good friend and Casualty co-star, Amanda Henderson (Robyn Miller), who also guested on his last tour and whose beautiful, pure voice lends itself perfectly to a trio of solos chosen to fit the tour's theme and a very different duet with Lee which I'll leave you to discover for yourselves. Amanda will be there throughout the tour, while Lee's second guest, Norton James, who was Alan-a-Dale to his Robin Hood in Plymouth the Christmas before last, was making a special appearance in his home town of Bedworth.
All the charm, humility and humour we have come to expect from Lee was there in his stories and easy chatter with his audience, and if sometimes the emotion in his performance became almost too intense, needing the release of a change of mood or tempo, this is a balance Lee has managed to find very successfully in previous tours (I was recently prompted by memories of a concert at Kilworth to ponder how often 'Gethsemane' and 'Kiss' are found on the same setlist!) and I'm sure this already sublime 'Some Enchanted Evening' tour is but a tweak or two away from heaven on a stage!
With no official photographer in attendance on this occasion, you'll have to conjure a mental image of a beautiful and very talented man doing what he loves, with passion and joy... then accept that whatever you're imagining doesn't come close to the real thing and treat yourself to a ticket, or another ticket, or if you really can't make it to any of the remaining tour dates, to the new album (now available to pre-order)! And if you're still not convinced, in a far more objective review than I will ever be capable of, Selwyn Knight writing for Musical Theatre Review gives the show 4 stars and a hearty recommendation...
Remaining tour dates and Lee's full concert schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERT DATES
Last updated: 20 July 2015