This one-off 'An Evening With...' concert, brought to us by the same promoter who arranged most of Lee's dates last February including the Cardiff finale in March, came just two weeks after the highly successful Love Tour drew to a triumphant close in Birmingham's Symphony Hall. For that reason, and because we liked the sound of it, my tour buddy and I dubbed it the 'Love Bub'.
There was a definite 'end of term' feel to the event both on stage and off - it was not only a celebration of the eight dates that preceded it and of Lee's beautiful new album 'Love Songs', but a chance to savour the now familiar setlist one last time and to say goodbye to friends 'until the next time' ... whenever that may be.
It was only fitting that Louise Dearman, who had supported Lee throughout the tour, was with him again for this last hurrah. This beautiful lady has a sublime voice and I can't wait to hear her new album 'Here Comes the Sun', due for release on 7th May, with a launch event on 13th May at London's Bush Hall.
Lee's brilliant band were in exuberant form ... and there was an extra dimension to the staging which caused puzzlement and amusement in equal measure as we first entered the hall. A random chair ... a rocking chair, no less ... sitting on the stage! As Lee later called on Richie Blake (bass - pictured with Lee below) to explain, the chair had been rescued from a skip and restored to its former 'solid beech' glory by Richie who, when talking to Lee about this one-off 'An Evening With..' format said 'If you use it, I'll bring it'. The line may not have the resonance of 'If you build it, they will come' but bring it he did and Lee ended up making more use of it than I imagine he had planned!
But what of the music, you ask? The lighting in the hall was relatively unsophisticated, far brighter ambient lighting throughout the hall than usual and a bank of hot lights beaming down remorsely on Lee throughout, which had two effects - not only could Lee see his audience, which we know from previous comments at Kilworth last year is something he finds somewhat off-putting, but he was also very dry. The former gave us a moment of total hilarity when he said 'I can still see you, it's horrible...', trying manfully to backtrack before turning to mime to 'dig himself a deeper hole'. The latter meant we heard a few rare cracks in the Mead vocal - the occasional rasp took nothing from his performance however, serving only to remind us just how much he puts in to a show that he makes appear so effortless.
I have written before of how much I love the material on this tour - musically Lee balances the bounce of Crazy Little Thing Called Love with the intensity of Close Every Door, the passion of Gethsemane (once again a show-stopper) with the moving simplicity of Better, while his chat shows both his well-developed and self-deprecating sense of humour and his genuine appreciation of the support he receives for doing something he loves. He has come so far from that first solo gig in Southend, not yet two years ago, and with this latest tour and album I believe he has taken us a little way along a road that leads to even more exciting things ahead ... right now they remain tantalising out of sight, but I'll happily keep following that mesmerising voice until the next adventure appears over the horizon!
My personal highlight? That would be the whole concert ... both because it marked the end of a wonderful month and because we shared it with a lovely lady who had travelled all the way from Japan to see Lee perform his own music, having seen him on his tour there in December. Chie - it was a real delight to meet you and a joy to share in your excitement ... and thank you for the cookies!
Click for the full setlist with band credits and a huge thanks to Amanda K for sharing these beautiful photos (I should perhaps add that in the fourth photo, Lee has just finished singing Music of the Night and is miming the Phantom mask!). The final shot, taken as always by the lovely Phill Tarling, is from near the end of a long signing queue.
Lee's full concert schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERT DATES
Last updated: 10 March 2017