With the opening number out of the way, the chat started... checking who was there - Scotland, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, LA and many less far flung places - introducing us to his show Up Front & Centre in his inimitable style - "because I'm quite an up front kinda guy and I'm centre stage. I came up with that one myself, none of this PR crap!" - he hoped we would enjoy the set and urged us "for the next couple of hours [to] just switch off and have fun..."
And that's why I keep going back... for those two hours (rather more than two hours last night!) the man and his music, his band and his banter make everything better. It's a lasting effect too, when reality starts to creep back in - on the late train home, at work the next day - a mental flick back to *that* note in 'Maria' or to the fleeting smile that kept lighting up his face as he sang 'Feeling Good' or to the 'bus stop' story or to "how the hockery" (hockery? lovely bit of swear-swerving there!) did Chris Martin know who he was or to whatever moment puts a smile on your face and, for a while at least, all is right with the world again.
For those who have been to this show before, the set was mostly familiar - there have been a few changes during the run but the core remains a seemingly mis-matched selection of songs that in Lee's hands, and more particular his voice, become a cohesive whole... each song the vehicle for a memory, a story, a tribute - often funny, sometimes intensely emotional but always personal and it's that connection that Lee always strives to find with the material he chooses to present that consistently lifts his performance to a higher level.
That, and perhaps on this occasion, also the fact that he had some of his Holby colleagues in the house - Jade Jacobs (Donna), Ellie Fanyinka (Morven) and director Paulette Randall - whose loud appreciation of what they were seeing and hearing ramped an already fantastic atmosphere up another notch. After a couple of solo shows, he also had a guest this month - the lovely Landi Oshinowo, whose 'blades of doom' many will recall from panto in Birmingham but who Lee first met on the rock musical Tommy back in 2005, where coincidentally he also first met the band's guitarist, Tommy Emmerton! I was delighted to hear that Landi's next project is Big Fish the Musical at The Other Palace in London for which I already have a ticket! It will be great to see her on stage again.
I can't pick a personal highlight because there were no low points, but there were songs that touched me last night more intensely than they have before. How can a curly dude in a suit (nice new suit, by the way) stand just feet away singing 'Why God Why' and *become* that GI, the sights and smells and sounds of Saigon filling his senses and ours until the song ends and the spell is broken? That line from 'Say You Won't Let Go' - "I wanna live with you even when we're ghosts" - I can feel tears pricking even now as the lyrics run through my head. The memories are different each time but the experience is always the same - utterly joyful - and there aren't too many things in life you can say that about right now!
Last time I saw Lee (in a marquee in Sennybridge at the beginning of the month) he had a cold brewing, and his voice carried a husk that I'm sure hurt him though it didn't hurt his performance one iota... but there was no sign of it last night - his voice was as good as I've ever heard it (one day I'll count up how many times I've written that in a concert report!) - but there was something else that lit him up on that stage, an infectious energy that coursed through the room. I really can't put into words exactly what was different in this show from those that had gone before, but this selection of quotes from Twitter shows I wasn't the only one to feel it...
- "Just when you think he can't get any better, he just does. Absolutely wonderful."
- "Absolutely brilliant gig! Couldn't stop smiling."
- "It was off the charts."
- "On train home after a night of vocal perfection and a stunning performance."
The photos are mine and not the best, but I hope add something to the account - click any to view the FULL GALLERY.
The next outing for this fabulous show (and the only one for which you can still get tickets with the last two Pheasantry dates long sold out!) is at the other end of the country when, on Saturday 7 October, for one night only, Lee and his band head north to Yarm (near Middlesbrough). I'll always love the Pheasantry for its delicious intimacy, but it will be great to see Lee back on a bigger stage again!
And we have a lot more 'big stage' action to look forward to as Lee hits the West End with his famously fabulous Christmas show (snow machine booked!) on Sunday 3 December and then takes his brand new show - Lee Mead : Ten Years - The Anniversary Tour - on the road next year. The full schedule for that should be announced in the next few weeks but a few dates are already on sale.
Lee's full concert and events schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERT & LIVE EVENTS
Published: 25 September 2017