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Ball & Boe Together
29/11/16 @ 04:48:06 am, Categories: Shows, Pre Stage Door, Post Stage Door, General, 1158 words   English (GB)

Like many others we were unsure what to expect from this brand new tour format. Would we see (and maybe more importantly) hear enough of Michael? Would the voices blend as well live as they do on the album? Would the two groups of fans get along? Would they show appreciation for “their man” or both of them?

It’s been the first time in many, many years that we didn’t know at all what to expect in those six shows we booked (by the way, the number of shows is not due to our lack of faith in Michael’s judgment – he has never disappointed us yet – but merely monetarily. You get two for the price of two, not one as reviews happily state, and thus we had to half the number of concerts we normally attend). This, of course, was the whole point of this exercise: to try something new. And boy did it pay off! The album is tremendously successful, even going back to #3 in the mid-week charts when it was on #4 the week before. And booking this tour felt a bit like booking Adele tickets (minus the three hours queue to get through to Ticketmaster perhaps). Even the additional concerts sold out in no time. It’s wonderful to see the two getting all the success they deserve. But we digress.

Our first concert was Manchester on 25 November (Kerstin’s birthday, talk about perfect timing!) and we will stay for what was originally the last week…many, many moons ago. Naturally it is a great shame not to be there for the very last night as they are always so special. But as this merely means they are doing incredibly well with the ticket sales, we won’t complain (too much). We saw him and Alfie arrive fresh from a TV interview and mission birthday photo was accomplished (many thanks, Mr Ball!) and we were actually really giddy when we finally were let into the auditorium (very long queue to get inside the venue). And what a sight the set is! White stage, white grand piano (even the monitors with the lyrics are white!), blood red backdrop made up of a curtain the three large screens and the BB logo in white projected on the red. It looks stunning.

The band includes a string section, too, now and they make the most wonderful sound, very full and slick. Callum is back, of course, but not conducting from the front but at the keyboard as part of the band. Alfie’s MD Murray plays guitar (and is amazing) and is also part of the band.

The open with “Somewhere” and both are off stage for the first few lines and the audiences we have seen have greeted each singer with a massive cheer for his first line. Then they finally appear at the top of their white stairs and the joyride begins. We never knew “Tonight” could be turned into an up-tempo opening number, but oh it definitely can. The golden boys (“Together” has gone gold recently, YAY!) were on fire and you really can tell they are loving every second of this. And the crowds love them back. There is much bromance banter between them and loads of audience interaction. We recommend buying a fleece (you might get a picture or a kiss) or going to the loo mid-show if you want plenty of interaction with the dynamic duo. You get the feeling that anything can happen with those two! A man was made to do a catwalk, parading the merchandise fleece for all of us to admire; the lady next to us needed the loo and was eventually escorted back to her seat by Alfie himself as he went looking for her when it took too long. In Manchester they came down from the stage when an unfortunate gentleman needed the loo and they even took his seat and wanted to sing from the stalls when, alas, he returned. Our advice: don’t be late or leave mid-song if you don’t want their attention. If you do: that’s the best possible means. Naturally this is all done with plenty of humour and laughter. The gentleman who had to parade his fleece was even given a bottle of champagne by Alfie for being such a good sport.

So you have all that the promotion promised in terms of the big BB bromance, but first and foremost you get two consummate artists at the top of their game who do their utmost to entertain us fortunate attendees. The song list is no walk in the park by any means, so a lot of seriously wonderful singing happens, it’s just interspersed with very charming giggle fits (like two naughty schoolboys on a night in town). The sound is very balanced (exceptionally well for a tour, actually) and you can hear both their voices clearly. For us the magic happens when they sing truly together. Their timing is perfect and they are so tuned in into the other that the blend is divine.

The highlights for us are “Gethsemane” (this is a real showstopper, the audience in Manchester wouldn’t calm down for several minutes), the Bond Medley (“Skyfall”! Ball singing Adele, talk about an eargasm…), “A Thousand Years”, the Elvis Medley, the Les Mis Medley….those low notes in “Music of the Night” ever fail to get to us…okay, the whole thing is bloody brilliant. There, we said it.

The only slight criticism: It’s over way too quickly (for us, the two headliners surely disagree). In no time whatsoever they are done with their solos and we are in the middle of the finale. This always comes a slight shock. Time flies quickly when you are having fun.

One thing really is annoying though: When Michael comes on the stage to do “Gethsemane” (all in character, we have never seen it acted out like this, it’s awe inspiringly beautiful) he loosens his tie a little (for those big notes) and invariably some woman or another then feels the need to shout a lewd comment and people will whistle, even when they know the song. And then some people laugh and it really must be hard for him to ignore all that and stay in the mood for the song. So please everyone, hold your horses. There is plenty of opportunity for audience interaction. This just isn’t it.

All our concerns have vanished in smoke. As we said, it’s incredibly well balanced, so you hear both of them clearly, they are on stage the entire time apart from the last two solos, so you see a lot of them and there is no nastiness whatsoever between the two different fan groups.

So if, no, make that WHEN they will be Together Again, count us in. We’ll be the first in the queue to buy tickets (we wish!).


On the road with Michael Ball.
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