Billy Idol

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Classic Quadrophenia in the USA came to a close on Saturday night at the Greek Theatre, LA.  Luckily, our roving US reporter, Roberta Kappus was on hand to review for us.

As the saying goes “Alfie never disappoints” and he certainly didn’t at The Greek Theatre.  He came bounding onto the stage to applause with the same enthusiasm and energy as his first night at Tanglewood and accelerated from there.  From the beginning Alfie tried to encourage the audience to join in singing but this audience was a little more laid back as although some joined in, most were happy to enjoy Alfie’s singing.  I hasten to add this was not indicative of any lack of appreciation of Alfie’s performance; there was more applause for Alfie throughout the show than at any other venue I attended.  The Real Me, his opening song, was interrupted by applause three or four times. In addition to noteworthy shouts and applause there were scattered standing ovations at the ends of many songs. It seemed as though Alfie was reading the audience very well and the audience seemed happy with Alfie as applause and shouts of approval came throughout the show.  The audience seemed especially appreciative of Alfie’s punctuation of songs with dramatic arm gestures along with all the legwork.  Alfie’s exertions were in no way inhibited by the warmth on the stage.  It was not a large stage and the orchestra seemed a bit cramped.  Alfie wiped his brow numerous times, finished at least one water bottle which he tossed into the crowd and during the second half stripped off his jacket, tossing that aside.

Only professional cameras were prohibited and when Billy Idol made his entrance so many phones went up you could not even see the stage.  Alfie and Billy played off each other very well in their duets, with both snarling.  Pete was greeted with a standing ovation as has been the case since the beginning of the tour.  His dancing with Alfie went up a level at The Greek with all the steps being very pronounced followed by several twirls.  His guitar playing was once again masterful.

My take on Alfie as a performer is that he puts a lot of thought into his performance and keeps on thinking about it and adjusting throughout the run. It is one of the reasons that I can see the same show multiple times.  It simply isn’t the same show even though the words and the songs are the same.  With Classic Quad this was best exemplified in Love Reign O’er Me.  Alfie fills this song with such physical and vocal intensity that there does not seem room for adjustment and yet he finds ways.  At the Met he sank to his knees and leaned back on the final “Love” in the song. At The Greek Alfie walked out onto a darkened stage during the symphonic introduction, crouched down in the very front and centre of the stage, stayed there unmoving and then began singing from that position.  After he had sung several bars he rose to a standing position and continued with what seemed like an added intensity to the final “Love”. The audience responded with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

Thus ends five performances of Classic Quadrophenia in two weeks. From the first to the last Alfie gave totally outstanding performances.  His singing was superb; the emotion he poured into song after song incredible; the power of his voice at each performance remarkable.  Without a doubt Alfie owns this role.

Thank you once again to Roberta for a fabulous review, the next best thing to being there.

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This weekend saw the second and third performances of Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia, this time at The Met in New York.  Just prior to this, Alfie and Pete appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, an appearance that gained Alfie a whole lot more fans, judging by the social media reaction.

For those of us not lucky enough to be there, our regular New York reporter, Roberta Kappus was in attendance and has sent us her review.  This time, however, it’s a joint effort with Annie Lloyd and another regular reviewer, Cecelia Powell.

Saturday 9 September marked Alfie Boe’s debut at the Met and it was amazing.  The vehicle, Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia, is unusual for the Met but with a symphony orchestra and choir conducted by Robert Ziegler and the power and range of Alfie Boe’s voice there is no doubt that the setting was right.  The audience not only agreed but enthusiastically showed their appreciation throughout the show.  People had come from thousands of miles and different countries to be at there and it was a diverse group: Robert Ziegler fans, Pete Townshend fans, Billy Idol fans, Alfie Boe fans and those who just really liked Classic Quadrophenia.

Alfie’s entrance was both typical Alfie and unique to Saturday’s show. He came bounding on stage at break neck speed, punching the air, jumping and leaping, going right into The Real Me.  The audience loved it – the applause was instantaneous at Alfie’s appearance and at least five times during this song alone, the audience burst into further applause.  Throughout, Alfie was in constant motion, completely owning the stage.  He covered the whole area, moving left to right and back again and it’s a big stage.  His jumping was spectacular, with legs going in different directions. That got a tremendous response.  Alfie’s voice has never been stronger.  Every word was clear.  All the notes hit perfectly. This was Alfie in his element giving everything he had.  There was no sign he was pacing himself for two nights in a row.

Not too long into the show the audience became part of the performance. Clapping with the music was encouraged and every time Alfie held out the microphone the audience responded.  And in typical Alfie fashion he had the audience on its feet dancing along with the music.  The audience was loving Alfie and Alfie was loving them back. F*@k  was delivered at full force with Alfie at the front of the stage and a great deal of accompaniment by all of us. There was a slight mishap with Helpless Dancer which just added to a memorable evening.  Alfie started with words from the middle of the song! This is sung with Pete who just continued on from where Alfie had begun, although as Alfie realised his error,  he stopped singing and cued Ziegler to start again.  To paraphrase Alfie if you are going to mess up make sure you do it at the Met. Turning to face the audience he loudly pronounced “I’m fired.”  It was all handled very well and with great confidence by Alfie. There was no awkwardness involved and Alfie began the song again this time with the correct words and the audience applauding.

As can be expected, Billy’s entrance  was greeted by loud applause and Pete’s appearance earned thunderous applause and a standing ovation.  Pete was more intense than I have seen him in prior performances even breaking into a monstrous air guitar routine to the delight of all and mimicked Alfie’s dance steps as he had the prior Saturday at Tanglewood.  Over the two years since the world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall, the relationship between Pete and Alfie seems to have moved on.  At RAH Pete was the boss; Now, while Alfie may still be in awe of him they are clearly friends.  Ziegler had his share of fans in the audience with a number of people standing and applauding when he first appeared on stage.

Finally, as the orchestra began the intro to Love Reign O’er Me it seemed as though there was a collective intake of breath from the audience in anticipation.  Alfie more than nailed it.  It was the best any of us have ever heard.  The lushness of the orchestration, the richness and power of Alfie’s voice combined with the majesty of the Met made this the perfect venue for the song and it was more than appropriate that Alfie put his whole being into singing this. A thunderous standing ovation followed. It was truly an honour to be at there.

Thank you Roberta, Cecelia and Annie for a wonderful review – and let’s face it, it wouldn’t be Alfie if he didn’t mess up somewhere or other!

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Saturday 2 September was the first date on the five date US tour of Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia. Two years on from the world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall, the show bounded onto the US stage at Tanglewood and featured the Boston Pops orchestra and choir, conducted by Keith Lockhart (Robert Ziegler, original conductor of both the concert and recording, will replace Lockhart for the remaining dates).  This concert was something that many US fans had hoped fervently would happen and our regular stateside reporter, Roberta Kappus, was among them.  Here is her review:

It was apparent early on that the audience was familiar with both Quadrophenia and it’s classical partner as  they not only knew all the words but also the music as evidenced by the applause  and verbal approval at several points before the vocals began.  I love the orchestration.  It is lush, lavish, rich and Lockhart and the Boston Pops did it justice. The audience showed its knowledge and appreciation throughout by cheering and applauding as certain segments achieved the anticipated expression and/or punch.

People had driven hundreds of miles to see this. They had come from other countries. For most of them Pete Townshend and Billy Idol were the drawing cards; Boe was an unknown quantity even though a Classic Quadrophenia album had been released two years earlier. Reflecting this, both Townshend and Idol were greeted on stage by thunderous applause.  However, with the power of his voice and intense energy Boe held his own when performing with these two giants; indeed, as Townshend has said on several occasions most of the vocal work falls to Boe.  The mutual respect Townshend, Idol and Boe have for each other was palpable during the performance. As someone else commented, we watched “…a world class tenor slide on his knees across a stage ending up at Pete’s feet.” It was an evening filled with amazing moments and this was one of them.

It was also an evening marked at certain points with camaraderie and just plain fun.  Part of Boe’s choreography is a side to side bounce going from one foot to the other.  This, along with other jumps and spins that Boe has frequently incorporated into other performances propelled Boe around the stage last night with Townshend and even Lockhart joining in from the podium.  Townshend went so far as to add a ballet spin with one arm curved over his head at the end of a side stepping moment and then gave Boe a kiss on the forehead before leaving the stage.  When I saw Boe at the stage door after the show (he was kind enough to stop and sign programmes and tickets) I asked him if he had had as much fun on stage as it seemed. He responded that this performance had been a lot of fun for all of them.

Looking back it almost seemed as though the first half had been a test which Boe and Lockhart had passed.  After the intermission they returned to the stage together to huge applause which had not been there at the start of the programme.  During the second half the audience was more than ready to help by singing the rest of the songs. Anyone familiar with Boe knows he loves audience participation and this was no different.  He was signalling with hand gestures for people to join in which they did; the audience was singing the choir’s parts, Boe was responding and everyone was having a good time.  Lockhart even joined in, clapping along while conducting.

Climaxing the show was Love Reign O’er Me with its brilliant symphonic intro.  Boe’s vocal power and range, his intensity, his immersion into the part resulted in a performance that can only be described as an unequalled tour de force that brought the audience to its feet where they remained through the curtain call, the presentation of the flowers to all the principals (with everyone but Fuller and Lockhart tossing them into the audience) and the encore which was The Real Me with everyone on stage singing it.  The standing ovation continued through everyone’s departure from the stage including the orchestra and choir. It was as though a spell had been cast over everyone inside the Shed and no one wanted to be the first one to break it.

Wow, what a fabulous review Roberta, sounds like everyone had a great time…and I’m sure Alfie came away with a lot of new fans.  Here’s a short video from the evening:

Classic Quadrophenia is available here:

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… at the Royal Albert Hall in the world premiere of Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia.  Creating the role of Jimmy, Alfie was rarely off stage and winning over all the Who fans in the audience (thanks Linda W for sharing):

The evening itself was magical, beginning with a mass meet up of fellow Alfie fans and finishing with another stage door gathering, taking in a really fabulous performance in between.  Leaving aside Alfie’s flawless vocals, the most enjoyable part of the concert for me was the obvious chemistry between Alfie and Billy Idol – the two of them blew me away.  Interviewing Alfie a week or so later, I told him that I didn’t really know Billy’s music and he made me promise to get to know his music further; sorry, Alfie, I’ve not got there yet but I promise (really this time) to find out more.

As this phenomenal piece of music has only been produced in concert twice so far, I remain profoundly grateful that I was one of the lucky ones to be there for the premiere.

Classic Quadrophenia on DVD is available here:

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and signed albums are also still available:

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Since I first heard Alfie Boe sing two Classic Quadrophenia (CQ) songs on his UK Winter Tour, I have been keenly anticipating hearing the whole album live on stage.  The album is tremendous, made more so by the live sounding vocals from Alfie.  Alfie’s set list on his current mini UK tour has included more and more CQ songs and so the anticipation leading up to the world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall last night has been building to explosive levels.

The announcement of a classical version of a much loved rock work is always going to cause some fans to scratch their heads and wonder why someone is messing with perfection.  CQ was no exception and many Who fans took to social media in their thousands to bemoan this project, despite not having heard a note.  As the album release date got nearer and the promotional schedule ramped up, those voices of dissent became less and less, dwindling to a trickle when the album was released and the full glory of Rachel Fuller’s orchestration was heard in its entirety for the first time.  After last night’s world premiere of the live staging, the rapturous audience reaction leads me to think that the Who fans were completely won over (at least those who were there).

The audience was mainly a mixture of Who fans and Alfie Boe fans – it was easy to spot the Who fans as they stood up en masse when Pete Townshend first came on to the stage – and right from the start, there was a buzz and energy between performers and audience.  Robert Ziegler conducted the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra with passion (even donning a parka for the finale) and the London Oriana Choir was wonderful but the night belonged to Alfie, being rarely off stage.  Hearing the songs on tour with a small band and a small orchestra is magnificent but in no way prepared me for hearing Alfie’s sublime voice in harmony with a full orchestra.  Just think of every superlative you’ve ever heard and you’ll be half way there.  Pete Townshend was great (better than I expected if I’m honest), Phil Daniels’s characterisation of the Dad role was brilliant but the biggest surprise for me was how good Billy Idol was.  I admit I’m not very aware of Billy’s music and if I admitted to concerns about the show beforehand, Billy Idol’s part concerned me most.  I needn’t have worried as his voice perfectly suited the material and blended superbly with Alfie.  Their shared moments on stage were amongst the highlights – they were obviously having the time of their lives.

When I reviewed the album a few weeks ago, I said that I loved all the songs, there wasn’t one that I wanted to skip.  Having seen the show live, I stand by that; the music flowed effortlessly and the vocal harmonies were joyful to hear but the star of the show, musically, comes right at the end.  Love Reign O’er Me has become a staple of Alfie’s live shows and amongst his fans this was the song that caused the most excitement.  He didn’t disappoint.  The power of the orchestra complemented exactly the powerhouse vocal performance Alfie gave, leading to the spine tingling  last note when the entire audience rose to its feet as one…and stayed there for a good five to ten minutes (forgive me on this point, I wasn’t looking at my watch!) with rapturous applause throughout.

Numerous curtain calls followed and an encore with all the singers again brought the house down.  Rachel Fuller also received a fabulous welcome when she came to the stage and although all the performers (orchestra excepted) went of stage it was plain that the audience were not ready to see them go and they all trooped out again, Billy Idol minus his shirt.

Pete Townshend is taking the show to Vienna, Cologne and Munich (click here for dates) plus another unconfirmed date and those who see the show there are in for a treat.  For those not so lucky, Sky Arts will be showing the performance tonight at 8pm – and anyone else needs to start praying for a DVD release at the end of the year when all the live dates are over.

Classic Quadrophenia is available here:

classic quad

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