LEE MEAD .. SOME ENCHANTED EVENING
On a sunny Sunday in August, with the first date of his new tour already behind him and very well-received, Lee headed to the Isle of Wight, returning to the lovely Shanklin Theatre which he last visited in 2013. There's something about crossing the sea that clearly agrees wth Lee - maybe it's sailing from Portsmouth and docking again only 45 minutes later to perform a gig on dry land, in contrast to his first professional job entertaining the passengers on the Portsmouth to Bilbao cruise ferry - three days each way, across the rockin' and rollin' Bay of Biscay!
Whatever it is, Lee was on great form - relaxed, funny, and most importantly, in superb voice, while the heat of the day made him discard his suit in favour of a cooler and more casual look - jeans, sleeves rolled up on a crisp white shirt, his tie lending just a hint of formality. The Shanklin audience were in equally high spirits, giving the whole show a really fantastic energy. As always, there were stories - funny, charming, touching - and a particularly lovely moment when Lee found the perfect words and song to pay tribute to Cilla Black, news of whose death had broken just hours earlier, dedicating 'All The Things You Are' to her memory and to the love she shared with her husband Bobby.
A few tweaks to both content and order of the setlist we enjoyed at Bedworth gave the show a better balance, in my view, more 'light and shade' if you will. They included a new up-tempo number in the first half (one of the previously unheard tracks from Lee's forthcoming new album, also 'Some Enchanted Evening', (which is available for pre-order now, though not due for release until early 2016) and a return for one of the contemporary numbers Lee sang at his tour warm-up gigs at London's Pheasantry in June - a beautiful Neil Sedaka number that clearly resonates with Lee at this time in his life. Making room for that, was another contemporary number - 'All of Me' - which I selfishly hope will be back at some point as I so love the way Lee sings it.
Speaking briefly to Lee afterwards, he said it was good to mix up the setlist a little and that he has about four 'spare' numbers with which he may ring the changes from time to time. He was amused by the various calls for him to sing them all, but I fear the practicalities of running time and early starts on set are more persuasive! I include the full setlist on a separate page to avoid too many spoilers for those yet to see the show. Meanwhile, my thanks to the lovely Anne Stern for this gorgeous photo of Lee taken during the curtain call that followed the now traditional 'Any Dream Will Do' encore, this time with the whole room on their feet singing along in all the right places!
There was also a change in the band line-up, though not an entirely new face, with the very talented Nigel Hart on piano, who previously played at last year's Aberystwyth concert, joining musical director, Mason Neely, on drums, guitar and occasional ukulele, Ashley John Long on double bass and Rhys Taylor on sax, flute and clarinet. Bringing her beautiful voice, glamorous dresses and delightful self to the party was Lee's great friend and Casualty co-star, Amanda Henderson - singing two fabulous solos in the first half, with a duet with Lee and a third solo in the second. I particularly enjoyed the arrangement of her first number, 'I Got Rhythm'/'It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)', which showcased her voice to perfection, but the duet also really made its mark this time out and it was that (or one half of it anyway!) that I was singing on the way home.
For me, 'Feeling Good' remains the stand out song of the set - it's such a powerful, personal performance from Lee - but there are many other highlights in this show inspired by the music of the great Hollywood films of the 1940s and 50s, an era that brings with it a jazzier vibe that suits Lee well and which his superb band clearly relish. If you haven't yet booked, do try and get to one of the remaining dates and discover your own favourites. Finally, let me close with a word of thanks for the wonderful volunteers who staff the community-run Shanklin Theatre, whose friendly efficiency and warm welcome make it such a delightful place to visit. Back in another two years?
Remaining tour dates and Lee's full concert schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERT DATES
First published: 3 August 2015