Close on the heels of the huge disappointment of Lee's Pheasantry gigs being cancelled (when Pizza Express Live took the decision to close their doors until Spring 2021), the surprise announcement of a one-off show on Wednesday 4 November at Crazy Coqs, another fabulous London cabaret venue, was met with great excitement.
Better yet... for the many people, both here in the UK and abroad, who were unable to get to the show, it was also streamed live online worldwide and on demand for 48 hours (and a few hours more!) afterwards.
Our initial joy was quickly tempered, with reports in the Saturday papers that a national lockdown would start on the day of the gig... thankfully, while the lockdown leak was correct, the timing wasn't, and On With The Show snuck under the wire by a few hours. Even so, I didn't really believe it would happen until I was sitting in my seat at Crazy Coqs, nibbling the complimentary popcorn and (from a suitable distance, of course) greeting friends and fellow fans around the room.
I got this far with the report in the immediate aftermath of the gig... then I stopped. Somehow writing about it meant letting it go, and with the new lockdown wiping my theatre diary clean once more, I couldn't quite bring myself to do that. But I'm sitting here now, with the lockdown behind us, for now at least, on the eve of Lee's return to Crazy Coqs for a sixth London Christmas concert, with another gig - A Night At The Musicals - scheduled for the end of January... and it's OK. Click any pic to view the FULL GALLERY.
Many of you saw the gig for yourselves of course... although there were only 40 or so in the room, Lee never forgot the people watching from home. The set was the usual electic mix of musical theatre, old favourites and soon-to-be new favourites. Lee's had a lot of free time this year and some of it at least has been put to use finding and honing new songs. A couple of them we'd heard in his fabulous Songs At The Civic series of videos, but there's always something special about hearing a song live for the first time. I can clearly remember many of those firsts... Anthem at Lincoln, Gethsemane at Kilworth, Better in Bath, Feeling Good at the Pheasantry. On this incredibly special night at Crazy Coqs, it was All I Care About from Chicago that I think I'll remember in the years to come. The first song after so long in the darkness. The bow tie, the swagger, the knowing humour, oh and the vocal... the man was back. On stage. Where he belongs. And the grin on my face was a mile wide.
There were tears too... partly from the sheer fact of being back, sitting in the dark, wrapped in a song sung in that trademark way of Lee's, that draws you into the very heart of its story. I think it was When We Were Young that set me off... just beautiful (and maybe on Lee's next album... yes please!), but once the dam was breached, they were never far away. They're falling now as I write... the power of music, the power of Lee's music, may it never fade.
I loved the three new (to him) musical theatre numbers Lee included in the set - the Billy Flynn number from Chicago mentioned above, a duet from Waitress, sung solo, as you do in times of social-distancing, and the iconic Tell Me It's Not True from Blood Brothers.
Alongside the show tunes and covers was an original song of Lee's, written with Steve Balsamo to Adam Dennis's music - a lyrical ballad, Snow Falling in June. In recent years, Lee has often talked about writing and it was a real treat to finally hear the fruits of his labours, or one of them anyway! He said he's written five or six songs and on the basis of the first, I can only hope we hear more of them soon.
I'm not sure Lee will thank me for recording this for posterity, but there was also the song he forgot... the Tom Walker number he was really looking forward to singing - Better Half Of Me - but blanked on the first line. He moved on to the next song (an audience vote selected Bring Him Home from a Joseph / Phantom / Les Mis choice!) while one of the audience googled... returning to it when cued with the first line and singing it flawlessly. That's live music for you... especially after nearly a year off stage!
As usual, I include a full set list - not a moment of it less than wonderful. Fittingly, given all the shows that had gone before, to end there was the 'non-show' version of Any Dream Will Do (with apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber) ... a beautiful new, laid back arrangement which I could grow to love even though it dampened the usually instinctive 'singalong and sway' response to this long-time show-closer.
Lee was supported, brilliantly, by Adam Dennis on piano and Adam Goldsmith on guitar. He mentioned he'd played one gig previously with the latter, but couldn't remember where ... for those who care to smile at such memories, it was Lee's last Christmas gig, at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2017, the year the snow machine was banned from the auditorium but, as we left the theatre, confused more than a few London cabbies turning onto Panton Street to find an unforecast blizzard awaiting them!
Lee's full concert and events schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERTS & LIVE EVENTS
Published: 29/10/2020; last updated: 09/12/2020