Today's afternoon show was rescheduled from February and with Lee now fully recovered from the virus which led to its postponement and which was still lingering a little when the residency did kick off in March (not that you'd have known to listen to him), it was clear from the very first number today that the voice was BACK! Lee once again had his full vocal power and range at his disposal, from the meltingly rich tones of his lower register to the crystal purity of his falsetto. And maybe it was that vocal security, maybe it was knowing how well received the show had been last month, but there was an indefinable extra confidence about him that took his performance to a higher level still.
Lee is backed in these concerts by a trio of superb musicians, all of whom he's worked with before - Michael Riley on piano, John Pearce on fiddle and Tommy Emmerton on guitar. Though few in number, they produce a remarkably rich and layered sound, playing with immense skill and artistry. There can be few shows where the band are called on to turn their hands and instruments to everything from Lloyd-Webber and Sondheim to Take That and Wham! but they do so effortlessly and with an evident enjoyment that makes them integral to the sheer joy of this show.
There were one or two tweaks to the running order this time out and, as you'll see from the full setlist, a return for an old favourite plus, as teased by Lee on Twitter, the addition of a completely new number... Paul McCartney's 'Blackbird', a simple arrangement accompanied only by the guitar of Tommy Emmerton and performed beautifully by both men. Good choice, Lee!
Another addition to the afternoon show was one of Lee's impromptu Q&A sessions. We've enjoyed these a few times now at concerts and although there were no startling revelations on this occasion, we did learn from his answers then and other comments across the two concerts that:
- his first Holby City episodes will air in around 3 weeks time - he's been doing press for it this week
- there's a real twist to Lofty's comeback, with two big episodes that took 150 hours filming in his first three weeks
- this 'Up Front & Centre' show might one day become an album... maybe!
- he's still planning to do a big London Christmas show this year, but they've yet to find a theatre for it
- they'll hopefully know where by June and that will launch a new Joseph 10th anniversary album and tour for 2018...
- speaking of which, a 20-30(!) date tour is in the planning stages and he'll be taking the coat!
- there are lots of possible venues on the list - Doncaster and Harrogate were both mentioned
- he's doing panto again this year but doesn't know where yet... should know this week hopefully!
- he and Steve are working on a new show in their 'Steve & Lee' series for the end of the year
- and perhaps most randomly of all, that John, who plays the fiddle with such exquisite sensitivity, also lifts weights!
While the music is very much the beating heart of this show, an intrinsic part of any Lee gig is his easy banter with the audience, which often produces interludes of unexpected hilarity - a startled "Is that a man at my gig?" in response to a male voiced question during the Q&A - and also today a charming moment when he dedicated 'Hushabye Mountain' to his "tiny little spark" (the smallest child from the local 'sewer kids' ensemble) from Chitty in Canterbury who was there enjoying the show with her Mum.
It's always difficult to pick out highlights from a show that delivers so consistently... one of them, 'Blackbird', I have mentioned above and I think perhaps it encapsulates the delicious blend of music that Lee serves up to recount that I fell asleep with the final impassioned note of 'Why God Why' ringing in my head and woke with a smile on my face to the fading echo of Lee's one-man, four-part harmony Take That tribute... "in a corner of my min.. corner of my min.. corner of my mind". Versatile!
As he does at every gig, Lee thanked the audience sincerely for coming out and allowing him to sing for them, adding in the evening "I hope I can keep doing that forever" ... so do I, Mr Mead, so do I.
There are seven more dates in this 'first of its kind' residency at the Pheasantry - the last Sunday of the month May through November - but three (May, July and September) are already sold out and availability is limited for the rest. Don't miss out!
Lee's full concert schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERT DATES
Last updated: 2 May 2017