I usually wait a day or two after Lee's gigs to write up my thoughts - it gives me time to reflect and remember, and the distance to find more eloquent ways of describing the experience than the incoherent explosion of superlatives that immediately fills my head. But on the train home last night, I was completely stymied by Twitter's 140 character limit so I started in on a full report straightaway. I've added more and tidied it up a bit after some sleep, but here goes!
The band take their seats, the lights dim, we hear 'please welcome to the stage... LEE MEAD' and the familiar opening notes of 'Everything' as Lee runs between the tables and bounces on to the stage. He's in fine voice, looking mighty fine too, his eyes roving the room as he sings, settling in, taking benign command of the space. As the cheers fade, Lee confesses to feeling unusually nervous... not knowing why eight months in to the residency, but thinking it's just because he wants us to enjoy the show. No worries there, Mr Mead!
But there's something more, something fizzing to get out... he goes on to say how he doesn't usually start the show this way but wants to thank everyone for coming, asking where we're from and, like a proud father, introducing his new show 'Up Front & Centre' - named because he likes to be 'up front' and honest with his audiences and he's 'centre stage' - joking that there could be an Up Front & Centre 2... 3, 4, 5, 6 etc (no arguments here!). But when he starts chatting this early, he nearly always has news... and here it was, "a little announcement" that we'd all been waiting for. His Christmas show will be back in the West End this year! The producers won't let him say which theatre yet but it will be on sale in the next few days (and I reckon that first Sunday in December is worth keeping clear in your diary!). And there'll be snow, lots of snow, a brass section, Christmas songs, Lee in a tux... a Meady Christmas gig is simply not to be missed!
The first half set largely followed that of previous shows, though 'Ain't That a Kick in the Head' from the tour that accompanied his last album Some Enchanted Evening was promoted up the order from its usual place in the second half. As always, there was much laughter, some impressive hip action (thanks to the band for appropriate drink-break incidental music!), a few stories and more news... on a personal level, Lee shared his delight that he is to be an uncle, while on the professional front we learned that he's just signed another contract with Holby City and will be there until the end of next year.
After an interval filled with lots of catching up and precisely no-one leaving for the bus-stop Lee had helpfully pointed out was just outside the gate, he was back with 'Feel' and 'Haven't Met You Yet' (introduced as John's favourite song - I asked him after the show which *is* his favourite and he's giving it some thought... as a true musician, there are some he admires for the writing, some he loves playing and some he loves listening to as his colleagues play!). Afterwards Lee dobbed in the band for failing to join in on the 'love, love, love...' refrain as he'd asked them to before the gig. Guess he hasn't paid them a vocals bonus ;-)
Before I continue - my thanks to Lisa for allowing me to share a couple of her wonderful photos from this concert - her passion and talent for live photography shines through, you can see more of her work at LAH Live.
More musical theatre next... an exquisite 'Hushabye Mountain' from last year's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a powerful, emotional 'Why God Why' from a show that got away from me - Lee covered the lead role of Chris in Miss Saigon back in 2005, playing it some 75 times - how I wish I'd seen that, and a stunning 'Bring Him Home' from Les Misérables, a show that has so far got away from Lee - in his younger days he auditioned for Marius - still time for Valjean though! I can still hear that last note now, so achingly pure, full of sadness and hope.
Then came the moment that made this evening so very special for me, and judging by Twitter, for many more besides. I should say, all the concerts are special, but there's nearly always a moment that makes each one uniquely so... a new song, an old song, a story that goes off on a tangent, an exchange with one of the audience. Tonight it was an old song. And a little story. I'd seen Guy Henry (who plays Holby City's CEO, Henrik Hanssen) arrive, though confess I initially took him for a lookalike, my brain not immediately making the connection that one of Lee's colleagues from his TV world might turn up in his music world! Lee told us how Guy had said he'd like to come and see the show, and how he felt so pretentious when he'd had to tell him it was sold out. But happily space was found for him and his family and, because Guy had said it was a favourite of his, Lee had re-learned a song from long ago for him...
I have waited a long, long time to hear Lee sing 'Leave Right Now' again - Lee told us it had been 10 years since he last performed it on Any Dream Will Do (though I recall he did also sang it live, just once, at his very first solo concert in Southend in 2010). I've said many times how I booked my first Joseph ticket after hearing that ADWD performance, vowing to ceremoniously burn it on the steps of the Adelphi if he didn't win! He did, I didn't and the rest, as they say, is history. Speaking to Lee afterwards, I put in a bid for it being on the setlist for next year's Anniversary tour. He replied with the oft-heard explanation that he has to find a connection to a song to really sing it... if the way he sang it last night - with that faraway look in his eyes and a performance that more than lived up to the huge weight of a decade's anticipation - is any guide, he's found the connection. Thank you Guy.
Lee's band are always an integral part of his show, superb musicians one and all, and richly deserving of the loud cheers of appreciation whenever he introduces them - tonight we were back to the 'starting line-up' of Michael 'Mickey Blue' Riley on piano, John Pearce on violin and Tommy Emmerton on guitar. I always notice at these concerts how everyone waits for the last note to fade before bursting into hugely enthusiastic applause... it seems an increasingly rare thing these days, but it honours the music, respecting both singer and band, and I love it. And speaking of this wonderful music, I include a full setlist for those who like the detail - no guest this time to dilute the Meadyness!
I can hardly believe there are only three Pheasantry dates remaining - they stretched out so far into the future at the turn of the year - so the prospect of a Christmas concert, as well as a whole new tour in 2018, is very welcome. I will share booking details for both as soon as they're available - the former hopefully VERY soon and the latter within the next few weeks. The last three Up Front & Centre shows are all currently sold out, but the venue's flexible returns policy may mean some limited availability nearer the time. They will put you on a waiting list if you call them (020 7439 4962) and I will of course tweet if I get wind of any availability!
There is also one other chance to see this fabulous show - on Saturday 7 October, for one night only, it's heading north to Yarm (near Middlesbrough) and while I love the delicious intimacy of The Pheasantry, I'm really excited to see it take to a bigger stage. Tickets are on sale - full info here! You can also catch Lee live as a guest of his good friend Rhydian at the Sennybridge Show Concert next Sunday, 3 September.
Lee's full concert and events schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERT & LIVE EVENTS
Last updated: 24 September 2017