Alfie Boe and Michael Ball’s Together Again summer tour is now into it’s final few days and we haven’t had a review yet! Thanks to Cecelia, here is her take on Hampton Court:
Having spent a glorious day at Hampton Court that culminated in an Alfie concert two years ago with my daughter Cassie, when this venue appeared on the Together Again summer schedule it was inevitable that we return. Well, whoever said you should never try to repeat a great experience was dead wrong! Of course, it wasn’t quite the same as this year Alfie was joined by the other half of his double act, Michael Ball. While I’m looking forward to these two doing some work independently, I have a feeling this act could run and run. They truly have become the musical version of Ant and Dec — and not just because of the facial similarities between Alfie and Dec. We all knew their singing was fabulous, but what about their comic timing? It just gets better and better.
Cassie and I arrived early in the day to meet up with pals and explore this beautiful palace once again. Funnily though, we ended up spending a fair bit of time in the gift shop — where a certain New Yorker had positioned herself in prime position to catch the sound check. Then later, fully sated from our picnic on the front lawn, we strolled into the courtyard (champagne glass in hand) with just enough time to greet some familiar faces before we had to take our seats.
What a magnificent setting this is for a concert. You can’t help but feel the history surrounding you and wonder what events took place in the concert courtyard over the centuries. I’ll bet it wasn’t all singing and dancing – although Henry VIII is reputed to have loved both! There were several times when the atmosphere combined with the music literally gave me chills. One such moment was during Anthem. Love it or loathe it for its nationalistic content, this is a hugely powerful number, and to listen to it in a place where kings and queens have plotted for power was extraordinary. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if some of the palace ghosts had appeared. Surely Alfie’s voice soaring out into the night air could have reached them anywhere.
These palace concerts have no interval, so our boys just powered through the set list so as not to miss out any of the numbers. For them, I’m really glad that the temperature had dropped since the beginning of the week. I might add though that when Michael listed the reasons why he should hate his good buddy, he added the fact that Alfie doesn’t sweat. How that’s possible I don’t know! The man is a perpetual motion machine, and all that running and jumping and rocking and jiving is sure fun to watch. Michael, God love him, sweats enough for the both of them. I’m sure you’re all aware by now that the set list pretty much follows that of the New York concert. Luck Be a Lady got everyone on their feet, and they stayed there all through New York, New York too. As far as the boys keeping their eyes on the crowd, of course someone had to be caught out. In the middle of Keep Me in Your Heart as Alfie was dividing the “sha la la las” between the men and the women, he spotted a man walking and called him up to the stage. The guy did so very good naturedly, so Alfie didn’t torment him too much. Just a note or two, before all the men were asked to join in. Another funny moment occurred early on. Before the concert started, the wind had picked up on the front lawn. In the courtyard, we were quite sheltered and didn’t feel it as much. But, the stage, of course, was raised, and a gust of wind caught a violinist’s sheet music and sent it flying. Alfie, who was on that side of the stage, spotted it and ran and picked it up. Handing it back to the violinist, he quipped, “Is there anything else I can do for you mate? Would you like me to play for you too?” He then jokingly took the man’s violin and raised it to his shoulder for a moment before giving it back. Of course, the man laughed along with Alfie who patted him on the arm before continuing the concert. What always astounds me, is how both Alfie and Michael can go from giggling and bantering one minute to immersing themselves totally into a song. You can see the intensity on their faces and the fact that they have gone somewhere inside themselves. And then they’re back again for more banter and fun with each other and the crowd.
Now as for the singing itself, I can only say it was sublime. One of my highlights throughout this tour has been Michael’s Gethsemane, which we got to hear twice because he sang it for the sound check! The intensity of his performance is lightened by his banter and switch to Love Changes Everything. But on this night the song was particularly poignant as he made a point of commenting that he truly does believe this, and that we should remember it in light of the tragedies which have befallen our country over the last few weeks. As far as Alfie’s solos, I think we all thought we’d have no chance of hearing Run when he started singing Keep Me in Your Heart. But we were so wrong! For many of us I think it was the highlight of the evening. Powerful, raw, emotional, there aren’t enough words to express this performance. People lit up the darkness with their phones to add to the atmosphere. It was a truly magical moment, and I am so very grateful that I was there to hear it sung live.
And then, of course, there was the Les Mis Suite. The first time I heard this with One Day More added I wasn’t sure I liked it. It felt as though the latter had just been cobbled on. Not so any more. When Alfie’s voice soars into One Day More on the tail end of I Dreamed a Dream, it all works seamlessly. Listening to my favourite Marius and JVJ (albeit from different decades) together is the perfect finale for the show – especially when you know that encore is coming! Isn’t it amazing how both Alfie and Michael’s careers are so linked to Les Mis?
As a final note, I do think Together is the perfect name for this tour, and it can be again and again. These two extraordinary men have brought us all together. We sat next to a Michael Ball fan, who’d been Boed in the process. And I think that we die-hard Alfie fans have fallen under Michael’s spell too. You can’t help but smile when these two are “together”. In the process, more friendships have been made. I have a feeling Henry VIII would have loved these two at his parties. Here’s to the next one!
Thanks for a fab review Cecelia – felt as though I was there!
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