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Wow, what a night we had in Fleetwood on Saturday! Before I’ve even started this review, I’ve run out of superlatives – Alfie was on phenomenal form, holding the audience in the palm of his hand from beginning to end and basking in the love shown to him by the town, love that was clearly reciprocated.

Throwing in songs that spanned Alfie’s most recent albums (Serenata, Trust, Classic Quad, Together and Together Again) and a selection of songs Alfie clearly loves, this felt like a very personal set list – there wasn’t one song that didn’t work.  Opening with Sing, Sing, Sing from his new swing album (November 2018), Alfie demonstrated a mastery of yet another musical genre:

Paolo Nutini’s Pencil Full of Lead was just one of several new songs we heard, along with Ophelia, Wichita Lineman, Islands in the Stream, with backing singer Tor (loved this one), Queen’s Spread Your Wings and Pinball Wizard / See Me Feel Me medley from The Who’s Tommy.  Would have liked to hear Pinball Wizard all the way through – even better, I’d like to hear Alfie singing this with the Kaiser Chiefs, who, to my mind, do the best live cover of this. Click here to see more videos from Linda Wellington and Annie Lloyd.

As always, the band were amazing, with Murray, Dan and Tonksy being joined by Pete on guitar and Nigel on keyboards.  Backing singer Tor has also been with Alfie before, on the Together tours and the brass section were magnificent:

The addition of Pete seems to indicate that playing guitar for Alfie necessitates a lot of hair (Dan on bass needs to step into line) but both Pete and Nigel slotted right into the band whilst also bringing something new into the dynamic.  With only these few concerts lined up, let’s hope that we see more of Pete and Nigel in the future.

The song choice was weighted heavily in favour of those that could be danced to but of course Alfie found time for Bring Him Home, or Bring It Home as he said a lot of people call it (I once sat next to someone , in Blackpool of all places, who said I think he sings a song called Take Me Home – perhaps she was wishfully thinking!), preceded by the song he sang on Britain’s Got Talent, The Way You Look Tonight.  Both were outstanding, accompanied by one of the brass section and Murray, respectively; Alfie stayed in the Bring Him Home bubble a lot longer than usual and was clearly moved when he saw the audience reaction.

To the crowd’s evident delight, the second half started with Alfie and the band taking to the stage with the new Fleetwood Town FC strip, personalised in each case and as he did throughout the evening, did a shout out for Trinity Hospice, who were out in force with collection buckets.  Alfie is their patron and if you weren’t able to attend the concert itself, click here to see the excellent work they do.

When this homecoming concert was first announced it was clear that it would be a concert like no other and not to be missed.  Alfie singing in Blackpool is something special but Fleetwood is in a category of it’s own.  Throw in Jimmy watching from his upstairs window and Alfie’s Aunty Eileen almost stealing the show and you have the perfect evening.  Alfie thought so, asking “why haven’t I done this before, it’s great” and declaring that he definitely wanted to return and do it again – the roar of appreciation as he said this indicates there’ll be a ready and willing audience.  He was having such a great time, when it was finished (latest concert ever at 11.30!) he then popped into Highbury social club for a dance!  He’s come a long way from the Marine Hall.

On a personal note, it was lovely to see so many fans and special thanks to those who found time to say hello, much appreciated.  Wouldn’t have been the same without seeing so many friends, Paul and Pauline, Jennifer, Donna, Chelley, Linda Evans, Sonia, Pat and Janet, Carole, Karen, Jean, Nancy, Marj, Andrea, Carole and Eric, Jayne and Linda W (thanks for the videos).  Sue, Pauline, Roberta, Annie, Angie and Cecelia, not to mention my bestie Linda A made a fabulous night even more special with a great after party that went on into the wee small hours!

Before I go, can I ask a favour for Alfie and Michael?  They have made it to the shortlist for Album of the Year at the Classic BRITS and need your vote – please click here (UK voters only) to vote – thank you!

 

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Last night saw the first concert of Alfie Boe’s summer concerts, in Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow. Roving reporters Roberta Kappus and Annie Lloyd were there for thoughtsofjustafan:

Glasgow was simply everything anyone could have hoped for – two hours and fifteen minutes of Alfie’s musical talent, backed by an incredible band (there was no support act). There was no intermission and it was pure Alfie, covering what could be described as his greatest hits and more. It was musical heaven and as it was Alfie’s first UK solo performance since Leeds in 2015, to say it was well worth the wait would be an understatement.

Last night we were once again treated to Alfie’s amazing talent as he began with swing from his upcoming album. We then journeyed through Serenata, both Together albums and concerts, Trust and Classic Quadrophenia. He saved the best till last with a mix of country and rock and never before heard material from Alfie.  He was back on the guitar for Wagon Wheel, an amazing Glen Campbell medley and an Islands in the Stream duet with one of the female singers. Alfie has an amazing ability to sing a previously recorded song heard many times before and place his own mark on it. Once Alfie has sung it the song is never the same again.

The addition of Tommy after Quad was a fantastic surprise and a massive crowd pleaser; he really hit his stride from this point, loosening up and clearly enjoying playing the music he loves alongside fantastic musicians who out played any orchestra.

Yes he did sing Bring Him Home, to a standing ovation, but not before teasing the audience that he was going to sing from Les Mis, instead launching into You’ll Be Back from Hamilton, accompanied with stories of his time on Broadway.

A fantastic night that can only be even bigger and better in Fleetwood.

Another fabulous review from two star reporters – roll on Fleetwood!

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Back in 2015, I interviewed Alfie just before he went off to Broadway to do Les Miz and just after he had created the role of Jimmy in the world premiere of Classic Quadrophenia.  Naturally, we spoke about the highlights of that concert at the Royal Albert Hall and I told Alfie that I was surprised by how good Billy Idol was.  I had to admit that aside from the obvious few hits, I didn’t really know much about Billy Idol and his music, to which the answer from Alfie was unequivocally, “well, you should – you should definitely listen more, especially to Rebel Yell“. That was over two years ago and although I had the best intentions, I still had not researched and listened to Billy Idol!  Now, however, looking around for a new year resolution that might actually stick, I came up with the idea of listening to more music, especially music that I would not normally choose to listen to and has been introduced to me by Alfie.  Of course, my first subject for this monthly post is Billy Idol!

Growing up in the 1980’s, I couldn’t help being aware of Billy Idol, particularly White Wedding, Hot in the City, Mony Mony and Rebel Yell but I would never seek out his music to listen to; rather, it was part of the music culture of that time.  So, embarking on project Billy Idol, what did I actually know about his music?  If you had asked me a month ago I would have said his music was punk but I came to realise that although the music is definitely originated in punk, it has much more of a pop sound and style about it that I wasn’t expecting.  Punk Pop, perhaps.

Although, this was the song that Alfie had recommended me to start with, he might have meant the whole album, also entitled Rebel Yell.  Regularly cited as Idol’s best album, I’ve now listened to the whole album and I agree, it’s great! It’s catchy, it’s got rocking rhythms and tunes and above all, it’s reminiscent of that whole era.  Aside from this song, Eyes Without A Face is my favourite track. Luckily, Idol was making his mark just when MTV started and I can still remember the novelty of watching music videos  non stop on the TV…something that we today can scarcely credit, with our non stop on demand music!

From Rebel Yell, I worked my way through his other albums but nothing caught my ear until his 2014 release, Kings and Queens of the Underground.  This is the title track:

I’m a sucker for songs that tell a story and the lyrics on this song are fabulous; recalling past glories whilst also moving the story forward.  It doesn’t hold back on the highs and lows of the rock and roll life either; it could be subtitled, ‘how the hell am I still here’? The sound is unexpectedly pared down and would be a great song to hear live.  Other tracks that appeal are Save Me, Postcard From The Past and Ghosts In My Guitar.  They have different styles, from the understated to the classic Idol sound but as a whole, it hangs together perfectly.

Kings and Queens of the Underground is available here:

As I mentioned earlier, my New Year resolution is to listen to more music, especially that inspired by Alfie, so I’m looking for some recommendations for another eleven posts.  If you have any recommendations for me, fill in the form and I’ll see what I can do:

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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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What do Simon and Garfunkel have in common with En Vogue, the all female group from the early 1990’s?  Well, they were two of the artists cited as musical influences by British female duo The Sound of the Sirens when I interviewed them recently.  At first glance, it’s difficult to see the similarity between En Vogue and Exeter based Sirens, aka Abbe and Hannah, whose sound is more acoustic pop than R&B, but it’s the harmonies that inspire, along with Destiny’s Child and the aforementioned Simon and Garfunkel.

It seems that Abbe and Hannah’s musical influences are multi layered and eclectic; song writing inspirations are Oasis, Mumford and Sons, Nirvana and Coldplay amongst others. Listening to the Sirens debut album, For All Our Sins, these song writing influences are immediately apparent: the influence of Mumford and Sons is easily detected and Abbe and Hannah cite them as their major influence.  The writing process takes place both together and alone and is aided by lots of dog walking!  Abbe and Hannah each have a dog (Maggie and Taio) and like to listen to songs recorded on their phones whilst out walking – sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

For All Our Sins is an album that delivers upbeat, sweet melodies that beguile you, whilst at the same time, sharp lyrics speak to us of strong emotions, the sadness that life can bring and finding strength and positivity to get through.  Abbe and Hannah hope that by doing this, they can “help others to deal with the same issues”.   Chaos and Together Alone are my favourite tracks, along with their first single, Smokescreen:

It’s when listening to the lyrics and the overall sound that you hear the influence of all the other female singers and songwriters that have gone before.  The likes of Pink, Alanis Morrissette, Laura Marling and even Gloria Estefan further influenced the Sirens.  Going back to En Vogue and Destiny’s Child, it’s easy to see that it’s not only the harmonies that inspire, but also the women themselves – after all, there are still relatively few all female groups making music successfully.

As with all independent musicians, I was interested to find out why Abbe and Hannah chose to go the indie route and it turns out that Sirens are a perfect match with DMF Records as they are both Exeter based and both Abbe and Hannah said that working with them was “just like family.  We can pop in for a cuppa and chat, it’s great”.   As for the future, the Sirens will continue to frequently play live and hope to record another album in the next year or so – they already have some new material written.

Lastly, the title of this piece is Sins of Sound of the Sirens and you might ask what sins?  I concur, Abbe and Hannah are far too lovely to have many sins.  The title of the album comes from the lyrics of Cross Our Hearts and was chosen by the duo’s brothers – and they like it as “it can mean anything”!

For All Our Sins is available here:

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Alfie Boe and Michael Ball last night bid farewell to their very own summer of love at the first night of the 2017 Greenwich Music Festival and as with the other dates, held the audience in the palms of their hands.  The title of this piece is Summer of Love and it’s been a joy to see so much love surrounding this tour of outdoor venues; love for Alfie and Michael from fans and on social media, love from Alfie and Michael for the fans and also the almost epic scale bromance between the two. This may be the first show of this tour that I’ve seen but I’m sure that Alfie and Michael have not missed any opportunity to spread the love and gratitude to fans and each other for the absolutely fantastic year they’ve had.

Although Greenwich was my only show of this tour, I’m so glad that I was able to be there for the last one – last nights are very special and I wasn’t disappointed.  How could I be when my favourite song, Keep Me In Your Heart (come on, you know my favourite line by now!) was included, along with last year’s Best Alfie Boe Live Song, Run.  Of the rest of the changes, I was most impressed by Luck Be A Lady (from one of my favourite old style musicals) and of course the addition of One Day More to the end of the Les Mis medley – just when you think Alfie can’t get any better, he does.  At this rate, I’ll need to research lots more superlatives with which to describe Alfie’s voice – for now, I’ll just say that for me, he was perfection last night.

The song that surprised me the most was the encore of You’ll Never Walk Alone which I have never really felt an emotional connection to.  Last night though, the theme of unity and standing strong through adversity spoke to me and the tears came.  Michael had earlier spoken very movingly about the troubled times we find ourselves in and it strikes me that You’ll Never Walk Alone is the perfect song to reflect our unity and strength – none of us have perfect lives, after all, despite what we say on social media!

Earlier in the day, Alfie and Michael had presented an award at the 02 Silver Clefs in aid of Nordoff Robbins and Alfie, an ambassador for the charity, spoke a few words during his solo slot about their work – click here to find out more about music therapy from Nordoff Robbins.

Now if all this sounds somewhat sombre, the concert did contain the usual amount of humour from these two likely lads, as can be seen from the beginning of A Thousand Years – rear of the year anyone?

Alfie and Michael’s Summer of Love may be over for the time being but it won’t be long until we see them again for Together Again 2017 and before that, Alfie will of course be seen as Jimmy in Classic Quadrophenia (click here for tickets).  Until then, we’ll have to be content to send the boys all our love – we’ve loved these two weeks!

Special thanks to Linda Wellington for taking such fabulous videos for us all to share and to my two reviewers, Cecelia and Barbara.  And I must give a special mention to the Boe Buddies I had the good fortune to spend the Greenwich concert with, particularly Margie who is here from Australia via Paris.

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Tonight is the last concert of the 2017 Together Tour but before we get to that, Alfie and Michael performed at Scarborough in what a local newspaper called biblical conditions – it was very wet!  One of our previous reviewers, Barbara Wren was there:

Singing and dancing in the rain, Alfie and Michael just got on with it and wow, what a concert and evening it was. For me Alfie could sing the phone book and I would be happy, so sitting in the rain was not a problem and clearly I was far from on my own ( I do have to add that there is no one else I would do it for). Bonded together by our love of Alfie and Michael the evening was far from lost and everyone I spoke to absolutely loved the concert, though without doubt one that everyone will never forget.

From the beginning, true professionals Alfie and Michael appeared at the top of the stage at the end of Somewhere with huge smiles and made fun of the driving rain and wind coming at them as they approached the front of the stage. The concert was off to a fabulous start. As the driving rain increased many of the song lyrics took on a whole new meaning. Clearly wishing there was sunshine Over the Rainbow  and Tell Me It’s Not True to name two. Alfie certainly warmed things up with That’s Alright Mama and as the Elvis set ended I have no doubt there would be towels at the ready and warm drinks as they left the stage for the interval.

Seated back for the second half after meeting up with Annie Lloyd and Pat Watterson we chatted with water dripping everywhere. The audience were buzzing, some had left but not many, everyone in the front sections were well up for it which was testimony of their loyalty to Alfie and Michael and respect for all the artists on stage who just got on with it.  The swing set was fabulous, as the guys looked out at the rain which was getting heavier and sang (also giggling) about the Stairway to Paradise, and cuddled up to keep warm through Me and my Shadow  then letting rip with Luck be a Lady  and New York, New York  to the delight of the audience.

Alfie and Michael’s solo slots took some guts as the rain, now very much heavier was driving towards the stage.  Alfie ditched his jacket and gave all he had, working at the front of the stage in the pouring rain as he got the audience to participate in Keep Me in Your Heart which was fabulous, and then leaving us breathless with Run, a song I truly believe, Nobody Does it Better than Alfie.  As Alfie retreated to dry off, Michael took over with his always wonderful, sincere and powerful delivery of Gethsemane and Love Changes Everything, to the audience’s delight. The James Bond Set bringing the concert to an end as always was spectacular.

On behalf of all the fans and everyone who attended last nights concert I would like to thank Alfie, Michael, the orchestra, backing singers and the whole crew for pulling off a brilliant concert in such desperate conditions. It was a wonderful evening despite the monsoon engulfing Scarborough.

 

Thank you Barbara for a wonderful review – although this might be one of the rare occasions when I’m not sure I wanted to be there in the rain and wind!

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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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