LEE MEAD .. SOME ENCHANTED EVENING
Week three of this amazing Some Enchanted Evening tour took us west, starting with a sell-out gig at the Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton before continuing north with a return visit for Lee to Cheltenham's beautiful Town Hall, and finally to the Oakengates Theatre in Telford.
Three very different venues, but only one reaction from the three (mostly!) different audiences... and that, in a word, was wow! OK, so there was a little more nuance than that, but it's a fair summary - I can honestly say I've never heard and read such universally glowing responses to any of Lee's previous shows - from young and old, male and female, long-time fans and new. It reassures me that my innate bias isn't unduly colouring my judgement of Lee on this tour... he really IS that good :)
Lee has repeatedly said during the tour that he'd be nothing without his band - I disagree with the 'nothing' but do take his point - they are brilliant musicians led, as always, by his long-time musical director, Mason Neeley on drums and ukulele, with Richie Blake on bass, John Pearce on fiddle and Michael Riley on piano.
Taunton was a special night for all sorts of reasons... the venue, with its fully-raked (and very comfortable!) seating wrapping snugly round a very low stage, has a real intimacy about it, which both Lee and the capacity crowd seemed to relish in equal measure. After a half-term break with his beautiful daughter, Lee was full of the joys of, er... autumn - relaxed, chatty and in incredible voice, 'Feeling Good' really could have been written for him (and his audience) on nights such as this. The sound was great, the lighting was great and the band were, as always, on cracking form. And if that wasn't enough, the icing on the cake was a special guest - as Lee put it on Twitter (photo above) "the legend that is Marti Webb".
They first met eight years ago at the Lyrics by Don Black concert at The London Palladium (where, incidentally, Lee will be for one night only next month with Broadway in Concert and over Christmas as Prince Charming in Cinderella as pantomime returns to the West End for the first time in almost 30 years) and more recently when both joined Gaby Roslin on her BBC London radio show. She guested at the first of Lee's fabulous album launch gigs at The Pheasantry back in March and, living not far from Taunton, was persuaded to join him again for this show. She sang "for him" the song she is perhaps best known for, 'Tell Me On a Sunday', before they both raised the roof with the 'Get Happy/Happy Days are Here Again' mash up first made famous by Garland and Streisand!
The venue for the week's second concert in Cheltenham could not have been more different, its proportions on an altogether grander scale - in the evening, the velvet drapes were hiding the impressive organ seen in the warm-up photo (left) tweeted by Lee, but there was no hiding the marble statues flanking the stage which briefly took Lee back into 'Greek god' mode, flexing his muscles as he laughed at his own antics. It took a song or two for the trusty Andy Johnson on the sound desk to get the balance right for the large space, but Lee was loving the acoustics and exploited them to the full, taking the big money notes to the absolute limits of his considerable vocal power. There was more stage space too, which of course meant more dancing... I'm sitting here watching Strictly as I type, trying to decide whether my nerves (and my phone bill) could handle Lee being on the show!
If Taunton was about the feeling and Cheltenham about the voice, then the final concert of the week in Telford was about the humour... not that it was in any way devoid of feeling or voice, but there was a twinkle in Lee's eye last night that manifested itself in random hilarity at regular intervals. While much of it would be lost in translation if repeated here, his Norman Wisdom walk can, I hope, be easily visualised. But perhaps I do him a disservice in focusing on the funnies, for when he sang, he was exquisitely expressive - a friend commented that he was "a true artist, painting pictures through song" and that captures it perfectly. He also showed his serious side with a neat segue from 'Pure Imagination' to a topical comment on the 'election du jour' and a certain candidate who should definitely not be allowed to change the world. It really doesn't matter how many times I see this man in concert, he ALWAYS delights and he ALWAYS surprises.
With the exception of Marti Webb's contributions in Taunton, the set list for all three concerts was unchanged from that of previous weeks (I say again, why meddle with perfection!) and I include it in full here.
With the tour reaching its final week, there are just three more chances to see for yourself why the audience reactions so far, to both the show itself and more particularly to Lee's outstanding performance of it, have been off the scale... you can find details of the remaining dates here, while Lee's full concert schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERT DATES
First published: 22 October 2016