Ball and Boe’s Together Again tour started on Thursday in Cardiff and regular reviewer Carole Hunt was there for us:

Think you’ve heard it all from Messrs Ball and Boe over the past twelve months? Well, think again. They’re back and with it they are bigger, better, and bolder than ever before. Add the word ‘badder’ to that list in the best possible sense and you have the formula for a show with a gloriously long set list by two performers who have created something quite astonishing. They are more relaxed and their infectious love for their craft and performing in front of a live audience is abundantly clear.

The set is just about the same as previously, except for the back screen being one large element instead of split into three and the opening overture, played whilst Alfie and Michael begin in their familiar format of singing off stage, is accompanied by a plethora of photos of them including the selfies they took on stage at the end of each concert last winter and summer – so watch out for yourselves! As If We Never Said Goodbye opens the show followed by (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher, the latter being a surprise inclusion but got the audience in upbeat spirits from the start. Then, from the Together Again album – You’ll Be Back, Some Enchanted Evening, Evermore, Not While I’m Around and The Rose. A duet of Michael’s signature song Love Changes Everything was amusing and Alfie picks it up with effortless ease. I was thrilled to hear A Thousand Years still included in the set as it fast became one of my favourites last year, and Hero came next with He Lives In You. John Tonks’ solo on drums during the latter number was incredible and clearly enjoyed by them both, although I think Alfie was itching to take over! As the tempo increased on the song so did his energy levels and they didn’t look back for the rest of the show.

The second half began with a medley from West Side Story accompanied by graphics on the back screen evocative of the opening of the original film which set the tone beautifully. Bring Me Sunshine was gorgeous with the added delight of an unprepared dance routine that they had done at the Royal Variety show last week which brought giggles between them but was made even more endearing with it being less than perfect. Whether they will perfect it as the tour evolves I don’t know but there was something very captivating about it with the rough edges.

New York, New York was followed by one of many surprise inclusions and something totally inspired – a Queen medley. If there is one man who can come anywhere near to doing Freddie Mercury justice it’s Alfie and you can sense the joy he feels in singing those genius and powerful songs – It’s A Kind Of Magic, Radio Gaga, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions. Rock star Alfie was unleashed, possibly onto a partly unsuspecting audience who were not so familiar with that side of him and “that nice man from Les Mis” filled the stage as only he can with epic vocals and boundless energy.

Their solo spots were a refreshing departure from what they had done in previous shows but still showcased their ability to perform yet more musical genres. Michael chose a tribute to David Bowie in Life on Mars and You Can’t Stop The Beat from his time in Hairspray. Alfie’s choices were unexpected – Wagon Wheel, a country song performed whilst he played the guitar and accompanied by a handful of musicians around him. The last time we saw him with a guitar in his hand was during the Storyteller tour 4 ½ years ago and I am happy to report that he has clearly worked very hard since then and appears very comfortable indeed. His choice of Tiny Dancer, an Elton John song , was inspired by hearing its original composer performing it on a grand piano in his back garden.

A new and updated medley from Les Miserables was as uplifting and emotional as it should be, given it is being performed by two of the most famous and formidable voices ever to be associated with arguably one of the best musicals ever written. The backing singers did a wonderful job with At the End of the Day, and Michael delivered an impassioned Stars before Alfie gave us a full length, towering Bring Him Home. Whilst Michael was performing Alfie sat in the half light off to one side preparing himself, no doubt getting into that ‘bubble’ that he talks about. The way that Michael in particular looks at Alfie when he is singing solo is fascinating and captivating to watch, he seems to be in total awe. A final blast of One Day More brought tears to my eyes.

The finale came with The Prayer , delivered with high emotion and passion and, unlike the CD recording, they went for the very big finish with Alfie hitting that note as only he can. But a finale is not a real finale with Ball and Boe these days until Michael has come back on alone, seemingly pleased that Alfie had gone so that he could sing A Different Corner, only to have him pop up behind him and both of them launching into – yes folks, they really did do it at last – a Wham medley. It was a joy to seem them on that stage just letting go and the entire audience were on their feet caught up with their infectious excitement and dynamism. Where else could you expect to see a Fellow of the Royal College of Music belting out Wham songs on top of a white grand piano?

It was a very special evening indeed and I have no doubt that the tour will evolve as it goes on, but the unpredictability and excitement of an opening night was one to savour. This may be the last we hear from Ball and Boe as a duo for a while and we are excited to hear where their individual paths will take them next, but ‘Together’ they certainly brought fun, sunshine and love to Cardiff.
Breathtaking review Carole – thank you so much!

Tonight is the first night of Alfie and Michael’s Together Again 2017 tour in Cardiff and for the rest of us who aren’t able to be there, it’s the moment where we get to see which song made it to number one in our Alfie Boe Best Live Song poll.

The countdown has been so far:

10. O Sole Mio / Now or Never

9.   Always On My Mind

8.   Rank Strangers

7.   Addio Sogni Di Gloria

6.   Stranger in Paradise

5.   Forever Young

4.   You’ll Never Walk Alone

3.   Don’t Stop Me Now

2.   Love Reign O’er Me

And the song at the top is:

Of course, it had to be Run – currently the most popular live song by a long chalk with double the votes of the song at second place.  I’ve chosen the VE day video as this was the first time we heard Alfie sing the song and I hope he sings it for a long time to come and even records it one day.

Thanks for all the nominations – we must do it again next year!

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Yesterday saw the news that Alfie Boe will return to Scarborough for Armed Forces Day on 30 June 2018 and the news today is no less exciting – Alfie’s back at Llangollen!  Alfie will appear at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod on it’s opening night, Tuesday 3 July.  Other performers at the annual event include Van Morrison, Red Priest and Calan.

Alfie is of course a firm favourite with Eisteddfod audiences, having performed several times throughout his career; here he is two years ago:

Tickets for the main concert series will be available to Festival Pass holders and Friends of the Eisteddfod from 9.30am 28 November (anyone purchasing a membership to the Friends of the Eisteddfod during the two-week priority booking period will also gain access to advance tickets) and to the general public at 9.30am on Tuesday 14th December. Click here for the festival website.

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What an exciting time for Alfie Boe fans – the Together Again tour with Michael Ball starting this week and now a second announcement for a 2018 solo show in as many weeks.  Having played at Armed Forces Day in 2015 and returned in 2017 with Michael Ball, Alfie is set to return to Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre on Saturday June 30th 2018.  Let’s hope the weather isn’t as dreadful as it was this year!

Of his Scarborough 2018 show Alfie said “I love playing at Scarborough OAT, the crowds are always so warm and really up for a good night. The fact this is Armed Forces Day will make the occasion extra special.  This summer’s show there with Michael was played in some horrendous weather conditions. The rain really was something else that night, but the crowd were simply fantastic. Neither Michael or myself will ever forget that night. I now can’t wait to bring my own show back to Scarborough – hopefully this time in the bright Yorkshire sunshine! I will be performing some new material alongside plenty of the songs the fans know and love.”

Well, I love the sound of new material, as by then we will be looking forward to Alfie’s first solo album for a few years – bring it on!

Tickets go on general sale on Friday 1 December – 9am.  Click here.

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Almost at the top of this year’s poll to find fans’ favourite Alfie Boe live song and new in at number 2 is Love Reign O’er Me from Classic Quadrophenia:

Nominated by Barbara Bell, this particular video is from the world premiere of CQ at the Royal Albert Hall in July 2015 but more recently, Alfie has been rocking the USA with it.  Judging from the interview with Alfie I had a couple of weeks ago (make sure you subscribe to see it), it will be part of Alfie’s life for some time to come and from the results of this poll, it seems that this will be nothing but a good thing for fans.

Love Reign O’er Me featured a lot on the Ball and Boe Together Tour last year as one of Alfie’s two solo songs – will he bring it back for 2017?  It’s not long until we get to find out!

The original was sung by Roger Daltrey but has been sung numerous times by other artists, one of which is Eddie Vedder, of Pearl Jam – Eddie Vedder appeared with Alfie in Chicago this year.

And so, we’re almost at number one – next week is the week we find out and the week the Together Again 2017 tour gets under way!

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In a special homecoming concert, Alfie Boe will play Fleetwood FC’s Highbury stadium on 2 June 2018.  The concert will be the largest ever seen in Fleetwood, which is of course the town where Alfie grew up.

 

Alfie is super excited to be playing in his home town as evidenced here:

Being Fleetwood born and bred and a fully fledged member of the Cod Army it’s an honour and a privilege to be performing back in my home town and at my team’s home ground. I hold Fleetwood close to my heart and I’m so happy to be coming back to entertain family and friends.

This will be Alfie’s second show in Fleetwood in the space of twelve months, as he performed a couple of songs when his blue plaque was unveiled at the Marine Hall where Alfie made his debut as a performer at the tender age of fourteen.  This honour was presented as part of the BBC Music Day celebrations in June this year and Alfie was also an BBC Music ambassador in 2017.

Despite a hectic work schedule and a home in America, Alfie always keeps Fleetwood and the Fylde Coast close to his heart and is a passionate supporter of the local hospice, Trinity and Brian House, becoming patron several years ago.  As such, £2 from each ticket sold will go to the hospice, considerably contributing towards their annual £5M+ running costs.  Head of Fundraising, Linzi Young, said:

This is quite incredible news for the Hospice. Alfie has been our patron for five years and has helped us launch various fundraising campaigns, has sent videos of support for events such as our annual Ball, and has also sent private messages to some of our patients and their families facing very difficult circumstances.  He is a man with a big heart, as well as a big voice. His global fan base is a window on the world for us; fans from across all continents get involved and send donations to Trinity in his name. We feel very privileged indeed to have the support of Alfie and his team.

Yet again fans can enjoy Alfie’s music whilst also supporting his charities – a win win for everyone!

Tickets go on sale Friday 24 November at 9am from Ticketmaster.  Click here for tickets.

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With less than three weeks to go until Alfie Boe and Michael Ball start their Together Again 2017 tour, I’m on the hunt for concert reviewers.  Last year, Cecelia Powell, Samantha Davis, Heather Crosskey, Heather Moore, Carole Hunt, Roberta Kappus, Christine Firby and Barbara Wren wrote some wonderful reviews and I’m hoping that there will be some more guest reviewers out there this year.

If you would like to review a concert on the Together Again Tour, please fill in the form with a mini review of the album and I’ll notify the winners at the end of next week:

Click here to see some of the reviews from 2016.

Last week I gave you the opportunity to win a signed CD / DVD deluxe Together Again album and I asked you which Disney songs were included on the album.  Sixty of you knew that He Lives In You and Evermore were Disney songs, as well as Once Upon A December from Anastasia (although as Anastasia is a bonus track, I did take answers that just included Lion King and Beauty and the Beast).

I’m delighted to say that the random number generated belongs to Sue Ashton – well done Sue!

Also, the winner of the Elizabeth Marvelly album on which Alfie duetted on Stranger in Paradise is Vehbiye Yoncu – well done!

Sue and Vehbiye, please click here to send me your contact details.

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Three weeks left until the 2017 Together Tour starts and excitement is almost reaching fever pitch levels.  Cardiff at the end of this month sees the first tour date and it’s safe to say that fans can’t wait.

Before then, however, we have the last three songs in the Alfie Boe Best Live Song poll and number three is a song that has featured twice before, once at number one and last year at number two:

This was of course at Gary Barlow’s BBC New Year’s Eve show in 2013 and astonishingly in this digital age, was kept a complete secret until Alfie leapt onto the stage.  Since then, it has been one of Alfie’s most popular live songs, as seen by it’s consistent presence in the live song polls.  Why is this?  Well, my theory is that as well as being totally unexpected, Alfie is so clearly having a fabulous time – it’s a joyous performance and one that you can’t listen to without smiling and dancing.

The thing is, it’s not just Alfie fans that think this about Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now – science thinks it too.  In 2016, neuroscientists from the University of Missouri published data about what makes a song happy and as the answers were all about upbeat tempo, the song that was chosen as the happiest, in seventy per cent of choices, was Don’t Stop Me Now.  Let’s see the song with Adam Lambert and Queen:

Have you entered the competition to win a signed Together Again deluxe album?  Click here – entries close this Friday.

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Monday 13 November sees new musical Tiger Bay, open in Cardiff at the Wales Millennium Centre.  Set in the early 1900’s, the show tells the story of poverty and wealth in Cardiff’s Butetown through one young woman, played by Vicky Bebb.  Welsh musical star John Owen-Jones plays John Stuart, Third Marquess of Bute in a role written for him.

When I spoke to him earlier this year around the release of his compilation album, Bring Him Home, John said that to have a part written for him was “a long held dream”.  With Tiger Bay, John also had the opportunity to be involved in a new musical right from the beginning as the show initially premiered in Cape Town in March / April this year.  This  experience was different to other shows that John’s been it was “more like a long workshop with rewrites and changes” as opposed to slotting into a long running show.

One such long running show was Les Miserables, where he most recently took over from Alfie Boe on Broadway.  John enjoys a good relationship with Alfie and joked about Alfie and Ramin Karimloo (Jean Valjean before Alfie) that “they did what I originally did and then I went and showed them how it was supposed to be done.”  Click here for our Les Miz Broadway reviews to see if you agree!

Whilst on the topic of Alfie (John knowing Alfie and me writing this blog, talking about Alfie was inevitable) we talked about the infamous night at the Royal Albert Hall when Alfie pulled John up onto the stage to sing Bring Him Home.  Of that night, John said “I wished I hadn’t had two pints of lager but it was absolutely unplanned and terrifying but perhaps the beer was helpful.  I couldn’t believe Alfie had the balls to do that.”  That was my very first Alfie concert and because of that magical moment, one of the most memorable:

John, of course, also starred in another iconic long running show, Phantom of the Opera as well as a recent short revival of The Wild Party.  When asked, John’s dream roles include Sweeney Todd, George in the Park, Man of La Mancha, Into the Woods and Company.

Tiger Bay opens on 13 November – click here for tickets.

John’s latest album, Bring Him Home is available here:

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Alfie Boe and Michael Ball’s new album debuted at the top of the album charts in the first week of release and in case you haven’t got your copy yet (what are you waiting for???) or didn’t manage to get a signed copy, here at thoughtsofjustafan we have one to give away. It’s the deluxe version which includes the DVD of the first Ball and Boe ITV special (it’s region specific to the UK, unfortunately) and was signed by the boys at HMV Oxford Street.  To win, just answer the question:

Which Disney songs appear on Together Again?

Fill in the form to enter*

Here’s one of my favourite tracks from the album:

If you want to see some excited fans at the Oxford Street signing, click here!

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