I wouldn't normally start to write about the weekend's concerts until the weekend is over, but tonight (or rather this very early morning) I feel compelled to write about the show I witnessed a few hours ago in Wellingborough.
This is not to diminish Lee's fabulous performance in Newark on Friday nor what I'm sure will be his equally fabulous performance in Redditch this evening, but there was a fire in Lee tonight that made a show I've seen many times before as fresh as the first time I saw it. Exuding confidence without an ounce of arrogance, positively fizzing with happiness yet perfectly attuned to the mood of each song in his deliciously eclectic set, telling its story, living its truth, he sang from his heart... straight to mine.
For me, there was also a deeply personal reason why this show struck so strong a chord... it fell on the thirteenth anniversary of the day my beautiful Mum died. With music so ready a trigger to memory, to emotion, I was prepared for the havoc this might wreak with my mascara - Lee's Eastbourne concert earlier in the year, falling on what would have been her 93rd birthday, had forewarned me of that - but in the sheer joy of an evening where that glorious virtuous circle of energy between performer and audience spiralled ever upwards, tears were few and swiftly banished. So it came as something of a surprise well into the second half when Everything, perhaps the most upbeat number in the set, finally burst the dam!
But enough of the personal - the show was one of the special ones for everyone present... a wonderful alchemy at work, when everything aligns to take an always brilliant show to an even higher level. A friend summed it up perfectly on Twitter last night: "Concerts can be great fun, entertaining and special. Some concerts are all of those and magic, tonight was one of those. The singer, the band, the songs and the audience all together made the magic happen." There were two additions to the tour set (full set lists here) - one heard for the first time at Lee and Stephen Rahman-Hughes' Together Again concert at the beginning of the month, the other previously sung as a duet with Stephen, both included in Lee's unplugged session for Stages Festival just ten days earlier, both absolutely stunning - Yazoo's Only You and Bob Dylan's Make You Feel My Love.
There was also a guest - a very talented young singer/songwriter who Lee first met at his August Holborn gigs - Poppy Holmes (@2tophats), the daughter of his Holby colleague Catherine Russell (Serena Campbell). She sang two of her own songs, accompanying herself on guitar - her hauntingly beautiful voice and easy manner with the audience marking her out as 'one to watch' for the future. As the crew (or more accurately the band!) re-set the stage, Lee kicked off the now familiar Q&A - roving the stage with mic in hand, he looked as at home as I've ever seen him, fielding a largely familiar set of questions ('who would he most like to duet with?' 'his favourite song?' etc) in his usual open way. 'When did you start performing?' elicited the story of catching the bug after being cast as Danny Zuko in his school's production of 'Grease', aged 15, before joining an amateur group, where productions included 'Oklahoma' and 'A Slice of Saturday Night'... cue an almost word-perfect rendition of Seventeen from the show (imagine him strutting the stage, all cocky 17 year old, singing this!)
With dates for Lee's new 2019 tour My Story : A Dream That Became A Reality starting to go on sale (a formal announcement of the full schedule will be made when all dates are finalised), we learned that his on stage interviewer, at least for some of the shows, will be the lovely Beverley Humphreys whose interviews with him for BBC Radio Wales have always been so delightful, insightful and entertaining - exciting news indeed.
Right - time to get a wiggle on if I'm to catch today's show! I may be back to add more later, but in case not... I say it every time and I'll make no apologies for saying it again - this tour is a total joy. Whether you've loved Lee since Any Dream Will Do days (or even before!), first saw him in Joseph or Wicked or Legally Blonde or Chitty, discovered him on TV in Casualty or Holby, or say to yourself "Lee who?" as you read your local theatre's What's On brochure, it's a true celebration of a fantastic decade of music from a real master of his craft.
So, here's to the next ten years, and more imminently to the last three gigs on this brilliant 10 Year Anniverary tour - the original tour finale in Lee's home town Southend on 25 November and two dates deferred to next year due to the impossibility of Lee being in two places at once (especially when one of those places is Aberdeen!) - King's Lynn now on 10 March 2019 and Clacton on 18 August 2019. I'm quietly delighted that we'll get to revisit this wonderful tour in 2019 alongside Lee's new show My Story.
See Lee's full concert and events schedule (including past appearances) at CONCERT & LIVE EVENTS.