This is a bumper week for guest reviews here on thoughtsofjustafan – Nottingham earlier, Manchester and Glasgow to come but before that, Carole Hunt returns with her take on Alfie and Michael at Blackpool.
Blackpool welcomed Fleetwood’s favourite son back home on 23rd amidst an extraordinary outpouring of love and affection on all sides. This particular concert always had the capacity to be rather special and it certainly did not disappoint on any level. The set list has been mentioned in previous reviews so I won’t go through that again in detail but it was certainly an opportunity to observe some of the nuances and other elements of the performance.
Both Michael and Alfie appear to be loving the ‘stool section’ and the swing numbers, which for Alfie fans is something new. He had, yet again, a fit of the giggles before going into What a Wonderful World and a shout out session with Fleetwood FC fans which then turned into Oh I do like to be beside the seaside . He managed to pull it back and sing the correct song but not after several failed attempts. Giggling Alfie is fabulous and his laugh is so infectious. Before he kicks off the Elvis section, it’s as if removing his suit jacket and rolling up his shirt sleeves is the release he needs to unlock those vintage Alfie moves and probably make a few of the uninitiated in the audience sit up and take notice. What an absolute joy to see him having the time of his life performing as the man who has had such an influence in his life.
As the tour rolls on it is obvious that both singers are picking up new fans like the proverbial pied piper and this in part will be down to their two big solo numbers which have clearly been chosen to showcase their individual voices at their very best. Michael’s Gethsemane is a song I have always wanted to hear Alfie throw his colossal pipes at but Mr Ball does a very fine job indeed; it’s a huge sing for anyone and he pulls it off with high emotion and power. I thought the superlatives for Alfie’s Love Reign O’er Me had long since run out and that he couldn’t possibly find anything more to give – wrong. To witness this phenomenon is like being hit by the full force of an unstoppable freight train coming at you head on. Where and how he finds more each time I just do not know, but he does and it has been an utter privilege to see him in full throttle with it once more when perhaps we thought there wouldn’t be room for it on this tour. I love to watch how he goes off somewhere deep into his head with his eyes closed, like he does with Bring Him Home, so that he delivers it with full blown emotional impact and not just stunning vocals. Whilst the piano player was striking thunder into the opening section, Alfie stood at the head of the white grand piano with his hands stretched out on it, head bowed and eyes shut as if he was physically filling himself with the musical vibrations in preparation for the herculean sing ahead of him.
Everyone loves a bit of Bond and the medley is fast becoming one of my favourite parts of the show. The boys look dapper in their black suits and to my mind give Daniel Craig a run for his money. The individual songs run seamlessly together and my only complaint is that the Skyfall section in its current format is wickedly too short. I can only imagine what Alfie could do with it given the notes he hits, a full version would be something astonishing. And as for THAT note at the end of Thunderball….. chills!
The Les Mis medley is a piece of musical genius with each artist performing their most famous songs individually, which is exactly as it should be. Their coming together on I Dreamed a Dream is a surprise at first but is a superb platform to show off the combined force of their voices.
We had more Alfie anecdotes than have been forthcoming in previous concerts. He explained how he and Michael had met during the ill fated Kismet production ten years ago and at one point he had been turning to his soprano to sing Stranger in Paradise and over her shoulder he was greeted with the sight of Mr Ball’s waggling rear end, with his pants around his ankles in an attempt to lighten proceedings. He also mentioned the fact that he used to work at the Opera House but was fired, and the guy who fired him was currently watching in the wings! He said some heartfelt words to the home audience that wherever he is “I will always champion this place, I’ve got my feet firmly on the ground and will never forget where I come from”.
It is clear how much in awe each artist is of the other and this was never proved more so than when, after their final wave to the audience at the top of the staircase, Michael pushed Alfie forward then disappeared out of sight leaving him alone on the stage to soak up the applause and adulation. The car mechanic from up the road done good – you’ve come a long way Mr Boe!
What a fabulous review Carole – love the anecdote about Kismet! Roll on Blackpool 14 December is all I can say!
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