LEE MEAD .. SOME ENCHANTED EVENING
All set for a home-town gig, I woke on Sunday as excited as a very excited thing in a box marked 'excited thing inside'... until a phone call changed the plan. Suffice to say my day was a tad stressful but the fates were kind, our wonderful NHS quietly and calmly did their thing and with my lovely old Dad safe in their care, the enchanted evening that followed was all the sweeter.
With twelve dates in a month, you'll be relieved to hear that I don't plan to write individually about every concert, but there is something so very special about the first night of a tour... the adrenaline flows faster, the anticipation is keener, creating an electricity that hums and buzzes as the room darkens, sparking with released energy when that incredible voice touches the air.
Following close on the heels of his hugely successful run as Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Lee is 'match-fit' in every way for this tour. Confident and assured, though never cocky, and looking gorgeous in beautifully tailored (and beautifully fitting thanks to the 'Chitty fitness plan'!) tux, pin-tucked shirt and shiny shoes with lush curls tumbling, as evidenced by the pic above tweeted by Lee before the show. More importantly (and I know I always say this, but it's nothing less than the truth) his voice is as good as I've ever heard - rich and strong in its lower register with a beautiful sureness and purity at the very top of his range. And when he belts... oh man! Voice aside, Lee's way of talking to his audience, with a natural warmth, great humour and disarming honesty, makes his shows so much more than just a string of well-chosen and beautifully executed songs.
Though well-chosen and beautifully executed, they defintely are - the set list (which I include in full here to avoid too many spoilers for those yet to see the show) show-cased, of course, the Some Enchanted Evening album for which the tour is named, with additional songs from that golden era of Hollywood musicals and more contemporary numbers including a few from shows Lee has starred in over the past near-decade. As promised recently on Twitter, a new addition was the beautiful 'Hushabye Mountain' from his most recent theatrical outing, though this haunting ballad brought an unexpected comedy moment as Lee sang the opening lines, eyes gazing deep into the past, then stopped and confessed to blanking because his focus had not been on his lost love but on the jam scones he'd consumed far too many of at his parents' birthday tea the day before! Classic Lee... but when he'd recomposed himself, a moving and memorable addition to the set.
I always try to share a personal highlight, and always struggle to pick just one. There were songs that touched me more deeply last night because of the day I'd had (thank goodness there was no 'Bring Him Home' - that could have been messy!) but the one that completely took my breath away was 'All of Me' - I've always loved Lee's interpretation of this beautiful John Legend song, but for me he took it to another level last night, living it rather than simply performing it. Spell-binding. Stunning. Add your own preferred superlative(s) here.
Lee was supported, brilliantly as always, by his trusty band - musical director Mason Neeley on drums and ukulele, Richie Blake on bass, John Pearce on fiddle and Michael 'Mickey Blue' Riley on piano - and with the last-minute indisposition of Lee's guest, Nick Pendry, we were treated to a couple of instrumental interludes in the first half which gave these super-talented musicians full rein to show us what they can do. It seems a tad unfair to single out one member of the band, but I love the extra dimension given to Mason's fabulous arrangements by the string 'section' and John can make that fiddle sing - insanely good.
It was lovely to see Lee's stage Dad, Andy Hockley, who played Grandpa Potts to his Caractacus these past five months, also in support in the audience and throwing in a timely prompt when Lee lost his Hushabye way! He had hot-footed it across from the final Chitty show in Northampton earlier in the day to see and support his friend.
And, as ever, friends are the final element that made this night, as they do all Lee's concerts, so very special... friends we met way back in Joseph days and through the years since, friends we continue to meet, with whom we share not just the times when the houselights dim and the spotlight shines but so much more, a living legacy that reaches beyond the man and the music. For all of the above, I thank you, Lee.
Lee's full concert schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERT DATES
First published: 3 October 2016