LEE MEAD .. SOME ENCHANTED EVENING
Nine months to the day after Lee last visited West Cliff Theatre, he returned on Sunday with his new show. He mentioned early in the evening that he wouldn't usually go back to a venue so soon and was therefore especially pleased to see such a full house again this time.
The crowd was almost as boisterous as last time and, at the nearest thing to a 'hometown gig' on this tour, also liberally sprinkled with friends and family. Add to that the fact that he and his guest, good friend and Casualty co-star, the lovely Amanda Henderson, were off the next morning on a short break in the sun (to Ibiza, I see from Twitter today), and you can imagine that the atmosphere was pretty relaxed. Relaxed, however, never means a lesser performance from Lee. If anything, exactly the opposite - it frees him to have a little more fun with the stories, a little more swagger in his step and to give his glorious voice full rein - just stunning. The crowd responds in kind, creating a wonderful virtuous circle in which it's hard to tell whether Lee or his audience are enjoying themselves more!
But back to the show - each time I hear this music, drawn from the great Hollywood musical film era of the 1940s and 50s, I find new things to love about it... a lyric, a melody, the lift of an eyebrow or the kick of a heel. Lee delivers this material with heart and humour and his trademark ability to find the truth in a song and share it with you as though you'd never heard it before. From his very first line "It seems we stood and talked like this before...", Lee speaks to his audience, whether talking or singing or all too often laughing, especially on this evening when, as we've already established, there was a definite holiday mood in the air!
He touched only lightly on the tough times he's experienced recently, and then only in introducing the song that shows how firmly they are now behind him - 'Feeling Good' - a song which again left people teetering on the edge of their seats wondering whether a standing ovation is appropriate mid-show! I'm still resisting the temptation to give away too many set spoilers for the benefit of those yet to see the show, but I include a full setlist for those who wish to delve - it was almost unchanged from last time out, though 'All of Me' returned to the set, dedicated on this occasion to his Mum and Dad, who celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary this year. It replaced Neil Sedaka's beautiful 'Beginning to Breathe Again' - I love them both, so hope they will continue to alternate rather than losing one of them altogether.
The chat is sometimes a little more reserved when family are in the house, but not this time - the story of Louise (which you'll have to come along to a gig to hear) becomes more elaborate with every telling, but it was a random comment that brought one of my favourite moments of the evening - watching the realisation dawn on Lee that in saying (quite rightly) how lovely it was to have some younger people in the audience, he might just have offended (and I quote) his "hard-core fanbase" who (and clearly I include myself here) are mostly no longer in the first flush of youth! There was something utterly charmimg and very funny about his attempts to extricate himself from that one!
I've already mentioned Lee's guest, Amanda Henderson - her choice of songs for this tour are spot on and her delivery of them sublime (her dresses are gorgeous too!). The other essential element is of course Lee's brilliant band, led by his long-time musical director and producer, Mason Neely, on drums, acoustic guitar and ukulele. Mason was joined once more by Ashley John Long on double bass, Rhys Taylor on clarinet and Nigel Hart on piano.
There are just seven dates left on the tour, including the much-anticipated Christmas finale at London's Garrick Theatre on 6 December. Lee's new album (due for release in February 2016 but available for pre-order now!) will include some of these wonderful songs but others, including the incredible 'Feeling Good', don't make the final cut (perhaps the right decision in that particular case - I can't imagine a studio recording capturing the passion and conviction of Lee's live performance). So... if you want to hear it all, you'll have to see it live! There are a few tickets left for the September gigs in Camberley and Bury St Edmunds, a few more for Winchester and Lichfield in November and a few more still for the further-flung October dates in Barnstaple and Yeovil - if you can feasibly get to any of them, do... I promise you will NOT be disappointed!
Remaining tour dates and Lee's full concert schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERT DATES
First published: 17 August 2015