A week on and I've had no time until now to put fingers to keyboard, so I'm going to keep this brief, briefer certainly than is warranted by a truly outstanding concert... I have no pictures, only a head-full of memories and a heart-full of love for this 10 Years tour of Lee's, which officially ran through 2018 but in reality ended last Sunday night, in August 2019, with the second of two dates rescheduled due to commitments to a far-flung Aberdeen panto unforeseen at time of tour scheduling.
Expectations amongst Lee's 'hard core' fan base had been ramped up by a superb trio of gigs at the Pheasantry the previous weekend, and was also running high for local ticket buyers, many of whom had enjoyed two previous Meady gigs at this popular, sea-side venue, staffed mostly by volunteers whose warm welcome is an intrinsic part of our enjoyment of the evening. Special mention too to Keith Harris, whose lighting easily won 'best in show' for the tour, as it did on Lee's previous visits.
Before I go any further, let me just share the words of one of the large group of fans enjoying a drink and 'debrief' in a local Clacton hostelry after the show - "talent attracts talent" - and Lee is certainly surrounded by the most amazing musical talent in his band - John Pearce (violin), Richie Blake (bass), Ian Whitehead (drums) and Tommy Emmerton (guitar), all led by musical director Adam Dennis (piano). There were a couple of changes to the line-up at the rescheduled Kings Lynn date in March, so it was particularly special to have the full band together again for this 10 Years last hurrah.
I had wondered whether the set list, which for the most part stayed constant throughout last year's tour, would be influenced by the additional material Lee had introduced at the Pheasantry, but there was only one song replaced and while I missed Why God Why, I could not be too disappointed when it gave way to Lee's utterly breathtaking Gethsemane, which again garnered him a standing ovation (the first of three!). It followed From Now On (which I'd forgotten how much I love) and Bring Him Home (which never fails to move me... when Lee sings it, at least) - three 'show tunes' (though the term seems hardly adequate) that make me yearn to see Lee back on the West End stage. Surely it's time!
The second half was without the Q&A that we so often enjoyed last year, but with extra songs that more than made up for its loss - first a beautiful, acapella version of Amazing Grace, familiar to those who saw Lee in the play he co-produced in Chelmsford this summer - Someone Who'll Watch Over Me - as moving when sung centre stage, suited and booted, as it was when chained to a wall, grubby and barefoot. The version Lee sings is taken from the play text, the lyrics twisted from the original, deliberately written as mis-remembered perhaps ... but I think I'll always hear this one, in my head at least, from now on. On this night, as at the Pheasantry, it flowed seamlessly into Make You Feel My Love.
There was plenty of banter too - it wouldn't be a Lee gig without a bit of chat! He started with an apology and a thank you - the former for the cancellation of the original gig, and the latter to everyone who'd come back on the rescheduled date - we heard too that he'll be doing panto in Milton Keynes this Christmas - Aladdin with Joe Pasquale... that promises to be total mayhem! And that he'll be singing at John Pearce's London album launch gig at Spice of Life on Wednesday 18 September - tickets (only 12 left at time of writing!). Oh, and something tells me we should maybe keep an eye out for another visit to Jane McDonald's TV show ;-) Lee is also the only person I know who can turn a sip of water into a full production number ... The Girl from Ipanema featured as always, and John did a little subliminal album promo in the second 'water break'!
It was a total joy to hear this amazing 10 Years set again. I'd forgotten the impact of the second half opener, a song I've long loved and never more so than when Lee sings it... the first notes of Feeling Good made me literally gasp in anticipation, and I wasn't disappointed. Lee first sang it at a time in his life when it was nothing but truth, and he finds that truth again every time he sings it. Beautiful, is all. Wonderful too, to hear again All Of Me and With Or Without You, Everything and Back For Good, the latter giving Lee his 'O2 moment' as the intro had regulars rummaging unprompted in their bags for mobile phones and the rest of the crowd following suit - I turned to see what he saw, a sea of lights, noting with particular delight the four, waving in perfect synch, at one end of a balcony occupied only by crew! I have, as always, included the full set list for those who like to read the small print.
I'm loving this year's My Story tour, and with only seven dates remaining, it's definitely worth catching if you've not seen it yet - a unique insight into Lee's life, his values, the people and events that have helped him forge a career that continues to go from strength to strength, and some fabulous songs besides - but there's no doubt that Lee, owning the stage with an amazing band at his back, is a thing that's meant to be. And this 10 Years tour has been particularly special, a celebration for both Lee and his fans of a decade I don't think any of us saw playing out quite as it has. I'm sad it's over but so very glad that it happened (and a reprise nine months after it should have ended was simply perfect!). I just hope I'm still around for the 20 Years tour! My thanks to Amanda H for this curtain call photo.
See Lee's full concert and events schedule (including past appearances) at CONCERT & LIVE EVENTS.