LEE MEAD .. SOME ENCHANTED EVENING
There was no doubting Kettering was a new venue for Lee and it's a measure of the charm of the man that he somehow made a virtue out of having never heard of it! Quite how it prompted memories of Morecambe in Lee's mind, I'm not sure, but they are happy memories for me too. The Lighthouse Theatre itself is nestled away from the town centre in a slightly soulless leisure centre setting, but the audience was lively and richly rewarded by Lee and his band for their warm welcome.
Speaking of the band, the line-up was the same as last time out in Weston-super-Mare - musical director Mason Neely on drums, acoustic guitar and occasional ukulele, Richie Blake on bass guitar, John Pearce on fiddle and Michael Riley on keyboards and, while the sound quality was perhaps not the best I've heard, the arrangements and their performance were as classy as ever.
Lee's guest tonight was another good friend - Landi Oshinowo - who he first met on the UK tour of Tommy in 2006 and was reunited with in panto last Christmas. As audience members, we are blessed that Lee makes friends wherever he goes in this industry, highly-talented friends who are happy to support him on his tours, and Landi is a perfect example of this - lending her rich, soulful voice to 'on-theme' Hollywood musical numbers 'I've Got You Under My Skin' and 'My Funny Valentine' and the more contemporary 'If I Were Your Woman'.
Another set shake-up for Lee this time out saw the return of two old favourites - 'Anthem' from Chess which triggered in him memories of his 'Any Dream Will Do' auditions and singing it for Andrew Lloyd Webber and surprise visitor, Tim Rice, who memorably said after hearing it "I wish we were casting Chess" - and Tom Baxter's 'Better' from Lee's last album. Both songs moved me to tears when I first heard Lee sing them, though for different reasons - 'Anthem' for the old memories it holds for me and 'Better' for hitting an emotional sweet spot within - and both sound even better to my ear now as his voice matures and his style becomes more distinctive.
I couldn't help wondering, as I once again watched him demonstrate his 'Brucie shuffle' to great effect during 'Singin' in the Rain', whether we will see the Chitty influence in his dancing come the main tour in October...? Along with my random thoughts, was Lee's somewhat mysterious dedication of the beautiful 'All The Things You Are' to "everyone who likes lucky charms" and, while there is perhaps less scope for comedy within the material of this tour itself, it would not be a Lee concert if it didn't creep in somewhere - in Kettering an unusually low seat for his 'perched at the piano' numbers briefly brought out his inner Norman Wisdom!
And while perched on that stool, he reminisced about his early (aged 16) audition for Marius in Les Miserables - as we've heard before, it involved a very long wait and a very short audition - adding that a few years later (my research shows it must have been in 2003) he was down to the last two for the same role, only losing out eventually to Jon Lee, whose sky-high profile in the immediate aftermath of S Club had the definite 'bums on seats' factor! How different might Lee's career have been had he got that role then... successful, I'm sure, given his talent and drive, but perhaps without the breadth of opportunity that is the legacy of his time on 'Any Dream Will Do'. Sometimes things happen for a reason.
As always, I include a full setlist for those who like to read the small print.
Lee's full concert schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERT DATES
First published: 27 March 2016