Monday, 26 May 2008

24 May 2008 - Richard Thompson with Mary Gauthier, Royal Festival Hall

Double Treat - no, make that Triple Treat
It was good to see Mary Gauthier in London again - this time in her classiest UK venue yet, in support of Richard Thompson at the South Bank concert hall. Mary was in fine form as she gave the Thompson audience a "sampler" set from 'I Drink' and 'Camelot Motel' to the most recent 'Last of the Hobo Kings'. After battling courteously with the lack of feedback in the opening number, Mary wrapped us up in her spell of tales from life on the road and the hurt of post-Katrina New Orleans. Her wry tales between songs are a feature of her performances; tonight there was only time for the back-story to 'Hobo Kings' - which raised much laughter. I think Mary won quite a few converts - if the brisk trade around the cd table was anything to go by - and hopefully she'll be back soon.
Richard Thompson put on a masterful solo performance - as ever making light work of sounding like a full band, rather than a lone guitarist. Only a few songs in, he gallantly abandoned his set-list to play requests - 'Cold Kisses', 'Valerie' etc - although he drew the line at 'My Daddy'. 'Dad's Gonna Kill Me' thrilled again, as did 'Vincent' - but 'Bright Lights' is better sung as a duet. And on it went - preaching to the converted. There were no real surprises until the second encore when he introduced his daughter Kamila for a couple of numbers - her voice very reminiscent of her mother's. Rather like the Wainwright/McGarrigles, the talented Thompson clan is clearly another folk/rock dynasty - look them up at a festival near you this summer.

13 May 2008 - Willie Nelson, Hammersmith Apollo

The gigs this months are a bit like buses - nothing for ages, then along come several at once. Still, it doesn't do to pass up the chance to see the big W. Audience was full of die-hard Brit fans and teary-eyed Texans as Mr Nelson gave a faultless performance - stronger and better than before. If this is what it's like to be 75 then can I have some of what he's on, please - and lots of it.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

12 May 2008 - Chess in Concert, Royal Albert Hall

Taking a Bow - (courtesy of

Tim, Benny and Bjorn have been tinkering with this musical for a quarter of a century now, but they may at last be on to something. Don't be fooled by the "in concert" tag either - this was almost a full-blown musical with orchestra, choir, two sets of dancers, fireworks, the RAH organ and of course the fantastic lead vocals.

This show attracted a wide audience - from the Grobanites (who knew they were in for a treat), to Abba fans and musical afficionados. Knowing they were being filmed (for cd and dvd) the cast and orchestra gave it their all - no doubt the audio problems will be sorted out in the mixing studio. Josh Groban's powerful voice was outstanding - and obviously a pleasant surprise for those unfamiliar with his talents. Idina Menzel's performance was somewhat scratchy in the first half, good support from Adam Pascal, David Bedella and Marti Pellow, but the new discovery for me was Kerry Ellis, whose "I Know Him So Well" has finally blasted Elaine Paige's voice out of my head. 'Quartet' sung by the principals was absolutely thrilling, the choir's 'Merano' was a joy and 'Anthem', with which Josh closed the first half, was perfection. An evening of total delight - and we rewarded the cast with a five-minute standing ovation. Hopefully everyone can enjoy this when it comes out on general release!