There was a surprise addition to Lee's already packed 2018 concert schedule when he joined the line-up for BBC Wales Proms in the Park in Colwyn Bay. He shared the bill with mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins, 16 year old pianist and winner of BBC Young Musician 2018 Lauren Zhang and Only Kids Aloud - all performing with the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, conducted by Grant Llewellyn.
All images here are from the TV coverage, click on any to view more screencaps. There's also a fabulous gallery from Dan Struthers Photography on the Events Cymru Facebook page. Now, please read on... you'll be rewarded with video at the end!
Having had such a good time at last year's Glamis Prom, it took me about 30 seconds to decide this was a 'must-go' event and not much longer to persuade my partners-in-touring to join me. As the day drew near, we paid close heed to the weather forecast and went duly equipped... many layers, ponchos, spare socks and enough wine that we wouldn't care much if we did get soaked. Arriving around noon, our worst fears seemed well-founded - it was chucking it down. So tickets collected, we went for a drive - coffee and cake at the cafe in Llandudno's Venue Cymru (which I last visited for one of the final dates of Lee's first tour back in 2011) passed the time until the skies brightened and we could check-in to our hotel back in Colwyn Bay.
Re-invigorated by the change in the weather (and the cake), we picked up our chairs and picnic bags and headed off to queue... because, of course, being Lee fans, that's what we do! We met some lovely people as we waited (one a Katherine Jenkins fan, one simply a Proms fan), and organised ourselves into 'porters' and 'sprinters' (I was one of the latter.. it's a relative term!). Equipped with just a chair each and the picnic rug to stake out our spot, when the gates finally opened, the sprinters were through and off - initially at a brisk walk, until an old boy jogged past me and I realised I needed to up my game!
We got the perfect spot, front and centre - perfect at least in terms of a clear view, though if you prefer legs and feet on your performers (and sight of the amazing train on Katherine's first frock), the grandstand might have been better! We'd caught a little of Lee's sound-check while waiting outside the gates - heard but not seen, that is, so we couldn't have been happier when he strolled on to the stage again as we started on our picnic. Dressed casually, aware of the crowd but very much working with the conductor rather than performing, he sang the song we so hoped to hear - From Now On - and if there'd been a roof, he'd have blown it clean off. It was simply stunning.
Sorry, I’ve been wiffling on and we haven't even got to the actual show yet... but for those who were there, the build-up is very much part of these events, so I hope you'll forgive me capturing a little of that for posterity. Having shared food and flags, enjoyed the two local acts (singer, Bethan Tomkins and band, False Alibi) who'd won a ballot to perform before the proceedings proper, made last minute dashes to you-know-where, and donned precautionary ponchos as the only shower of the afternoon totally failed to put a dampener on things, we were giddy as kippers by the time the orchestra started tuning up.
It's not always the case with an event such as this that draws together many performers, but I can say, hand on heart, that there was absolutely nothing on the programme I didn't love - the selection of music, the superb musicianship of the orchestra and chorus, the infectious enthusiasm and bags of talent of Only Kids Aloud and, last but not least, the soloists. Katherine Jenkins was the darling of the Welsh crowd - justifiably so - she has the most beautiful voice and a real warmth about her, not to mention fabulous frocks! Lauren Zhang showed us all just why she is BBC Young Musician of the Year. And then there was Lee.
He was the first soloist to perform and, as the presenters said, he captured the mood perfectly with the song that is fast becoming a trademark - Feeling Good - and feeling good he clearly was, and looking gorgeous, and sounding amazing. He returned later in the first half with Dancing Through Life from Wicked (and from his latest 10 Year Anniversary album and tour - last few dates, booking now!). There were perhaps fewer of the dance moves he throws in at his solo gigs, now only loosely inspired by the show's original choreography, but no less character, charm and vocal prowess... and my, does it sound good with a full orchestra! He was collared on his way off stage by presenters Tim Rhys Evans and Josie D'Arby for a quick chat - and if you've listened to the BBC Radio Wales coverage, you'll know that Beverley Humphreys also caught up with him during rehearsals in Cardiff a couple of days before the concert.
With full darkness having descended, the second half takes on a new magic - the ever more happy (not to say merry!) audience gathered like moths around the flame of the brightly-lit stage. The musical magic continued too... and soon enough it was Lee's turn again. Time for a repeat of our afternoon treat... 'The Greatest Showman' was something of a recurring theme, with a medley from Only Kids Aloud, Never Enough from Katherine Jenkins and, finally (again!), From Now On from Lee. A very welcome recent addition to his repertoire, I've only heard him sing it a few times so far - first with his band live on tour at the Stockport Plaza and a little later the same night on TV on Jane McDonald and Friends, most recently in a tiny London jazz club - and it's been special every time. On this night, with this orchestra, this chorus, it was again incredibly special and I'm so very glad I was there to hear it ... twice!
I don't know whether it was the night air, the emotion of the occasion or if he'd swallowed a moth, but by the end of it, there was a definite raggedness to Lee's speaking voice as he said a few words before his final song - Any Dream Will Do - and I wasn’t sure he’d be able to sing it through, but I really should know better by now than to doubt him! I’d love to have seen his view from the stage, with what felt like the whole of Eirias Park singing along, arms waving as always but this time with flags in hand, cheering loud and long as he belted out that final “my amazing coloured coat” then paused a moment to take it all in before taking his leave, waving as he left the stage.
After the traditional 'last night' songs (I've always wanted to be 'at' the Proms to sing those), a 'Welsh celebration' including Sosban Fach and Cwm Rhondda, and the national anthem, led of course by Katherine and sung with all the passion and tunefulness you’d expect from the predominantly Welsh crowd, Lee was back for the final bows as fireworks burst overhead in the night sky. And then it was done. What a marvellous, joyful night.
The first half of the concert was shown live on BBC Two Wales and some of the second half was included in a highlights programme on the same channel the following evening (both are available on iPlayer for 29 days after broadcast). So far, the only part of Lee's performance not to be seen on TV is From Now On (but you can hear it on the BBC Radio Wales coverage). I'm holding on to a tiny scrap of hope that it will be included in the final highlights show (covering all four Proms In The Park concerts) which will be aired on BBC Four on Sunday 16 September - if it is, I'll add it to the Meady edit below. (It wasn't!)
Lee's full concert and events schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERTS & LIVE EVENTS
Published: 15/08/2018; last updated: 19/09/2018