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Shooting Star Chase Charity Concert - Act 1
11/12/13 @ 03:42:21 am, Categories: General, 2279 words   English (UK)

The show
After a wonderful dinner with friends we really found ourselves in the theatre, knees almost touching the (not too high) stage. Usually this theatre is the home of “Once – the Musical”. The musical uses only one set: an Irish pub. The look is very cosy and homely with lots of small framed mirrors on the walls and it’s a rather small stage. What is amazing about Once is the change of perspective (and for us this treat for the audience was worth the admission price alone!): you actually have a fully functioning bar on the stage that the audience can use to buy their pre-show and interval drinks! We have seen the show recently and though we didn’t buy a drink we joined the people milling around the stage and enjoyed the view that is otherwise only reserved to West End performers. It was fantastic. So we knew what his perspective would be for the concert and how far he would be able to actually see the audience (about four or five rows back, but of course this was with the lighting for the musical). Needless to say the bar was not open for the concert (and could not have been, as they had build a podium in front of it for the musicians of Michael’s band and Callum), you could still see a lot of the walls and it added to the intimate feel of the place.

Finally the lights were dimmed, the audience went quiet and we heard a deep voice announcing “Directly from Downton Abbey – Myself!” Massive cheers and applause for Jim Carter, husband of Imelda Staunton and known to the wider public as the butler Mr. Carson in the widely successful TV series Downton Abbey. A consumed actor he most charmingly did the introduction for tonight’s events and had the crowd in stitches in seconds. Even a bit of Panto atmosphere came up. He received the most rousing reaction of course and seemed to enjoy himself immensely. He went on to introduce Laurence and Jackie Llewelyn-Bowen, who are Patrons of Shooting Star Chase like Michael. They reminded us of the good cause we were supporting, informing us that the money earned that night would be used to buy two buses which were necessary to drive the children from home to the hospice and to hospital appointments. They reminded us what Shooting Star Chase meant for the families and how many of those families would experience their last Christmas with their child. Some of those families were present on Sunday and received the warmest round of applause possible. It was a touching speech by both of them, making it apparent that this charity was really close to their hearts. And how couldn’t it be? What a worthy cause. For us it is so hard to imagine the unimaginable, so their speech made quite clear what the evening was all about and that while we were having a wonderful night out, others were going through the hardest time possible. A very humbling thought and we were thanking our lucky stars that we were not in this position. But it was inspiring rather than depressing, if you know what we mean. They told us about how much our contribution would help to make life a little easier for the families and what a wonderful person Michael was to organise this event from scratch and making it possible in the first place.

The tone was set for the night to come, when Jim Carter announced Michael. The place almost exploded. You could tell everyone was keen for the evening to be a roaring success and most fans hadn’t seen him for a while so there was a definite party atmosphere in the air.

The music started and we were happy to recognise “Dancing in the Dark”. A song he had sprung on his poor backing vocalists the day before and they were still learning when they arrived for the rehearsal. They did very well, of course. And we felt reminded of many happy tour concerts that opened with this upbeat number. Everyone got to their feet and danced along to Michael. He wore jeans, a dark blue shirt and a dark blue crushed velvet jacket with black (or even darker blue, hard to tell) lapels. He later commented he didn’t know what he was thinking to go for crushed velvet as it was so hot on stage…
It was great to hear “Fight the Fight” again sung by Michael. The night before we had heard the musical version in “From here to Eternity”. This has to be the only song known to mankind that is much faster sung in the original version than by Michael. The song felt really rushed in the stage show but this is probably because we are so used to Michael’s version by now.

This was followed by “Bad Things”, which has a special place in our hearts it was as always performed sufficiently naughty to make us question our dress choices as well (too hot indeed!). He followed this with “Won’t let you go” which until then has been merely one of the more up-tempo numbers on the Both Sides Now album that we have enjoyed immensely on tour. But he gave it a completely different spin by merely saying how the lyrics matched the cause of this night perfectly. It’s amazing, how differently you can conceive a song and its lyrics in different circumstances. With lyrics like this: “If your sky is falling, Just take my hand and hold it, You don’t have to be alone, alone, I, won’t let you go.” and “And if you feel the fading of the light, And you’re too weak to carry on the fight, And all your friends that you count on have disappeared, I’ll be here, not gone, forever, holding on.” there could not have been many people left without a lump in their throats.

There is the danger of an evening like this to turn into a very somber affair, but this was definitely not intended and did not happen once. It was more like a celebration of all good things in life and made you remember to give your loved ones this extra hug tonight.

When Michael introduced the next song we had a broad grin on our faces as we knew at once which one it would be and hadn’t heard it in ages. He said it became his and Cathy’s song, when they were separated for the first time for a longer period while he was on Broadway doing “Aspects of Love”. (Yes, we are sure many of you will also know which song it was. Everyone who was at the This Time-…It’s Personal tour will know). He said that Cathy had been the driving force behind their commitment to the charity and without her we would not be sitting there tonight. So it was just appropriate he dedicated “If tomorrow never comes” to her (she was in the audience, as was most of his family). It is such a beautiful song and again mirrored the sentiments of the charity perfectly of course.

Afterwards Michael introduced his first guest to duet with him. She was now living in Los Angeles and had flown over especially to take part in this concert! Imagine that! Julia Fordham entered the stage and Michael said he had had a major crush on her when he was younger, well not that big a crush! he quickly amended with a glance in Cathy’s direction and said he’d be in trouble otherwise. We had quite a laugh. Michael told us how he had joined Julia on stage for her recent London concert and how they were going to reprise their duet for us. They flattered each other for a bit and she finally said how excited she was to be singing with him tonight, to which he replied “I wish I was you – then I’d get to sing with me!” Much laughter was followed by the most beautiful rendition of “Where does the time go”.

While pouring himself something to drink he asked, if we’d like to hear something new and only got a lukewarm applause. So rather not then? He remarked and chuckled. However, many of you know Michael had sung “Stars” from Les Mis in Shanghai and we had high hopes he would sing it again this night as it received such a rousing reaction from what we heard. And we were not disappointed. When we heard the first notes of “Stars” played we knew we were in for a very special treat and by God did he deliver! Should anyone ever search for a definitive version of this song, surely Michael’s has to be a strong contender (poor Russell Crowe, bless him).

His voice was perfectly suited for it thanks to his new lower register and once the last line was sung, the audience jumped to their feet and treated him with one of the most well-deserved standing ovations ever! And we wouldn’t sit down again quickly. He was completely overcome. Having closed his eyes for the final notes of the song and only slowly returning to the present, he was visibly surprised to see every one standing for him. He was literally taken aback, as he took a step backwards. As he has never been too keen on the song this seemed to have seriously taken him by surprise. People went completely wild. It was wonderful! And we have heard many, many renditions of “Stars” over the years, honestly nothing ever came close. This was utter perfection. Those long, low notes – shivers down the spine. He enjoyed his special moment, smiled and said “We might have to keep that one!” We surely hope so!

Empty Chairs followed and what a beautiful rendition it was. Very tender and very passionate. But we were a bit distracted by him singing it while still standing centre stage. We are SO used to seeing him sitting on a chair during the song that this was somehow striking.

For the final Les Mis number they made clever use of a little trick the set had to offer as during “Once” the back wall of the pub serves also as a raised platform and you can stand on it, high above the stage. So when the opening notes of “Do you hear the People sing?” sounded we saw Alice, Soophia and Adrian standing high above the Ball in the back. It was a beautiful picture not to mention the beautiful sound of course. Lovely to see Michael do the marching in place they do in the stage show at this point.

Were we up to some Andrew Lloyd Webber, we were asked? But of course, Mr Ball. The Phantom of the Opera overture rang out and we are forever hoping he would follow this by actually singing “The Phantom of the Opera” as this is such an energetic number. Or even “Music of the Night” as he does it so beautofully, but as suspected the thundering chords soon made way for the softer tones of “All I ask of You”. He sang it but this time as a solo and not as a duet with Alice like he used to during the tour. This was intriguing of course. He was not to take away her song, surely?

He then sent Adrian out onto the stage and we were treated to his rendition of “Close every door to me” followed by Soophia’s fantastic “Don’t Cry for my Argentina”. This launched straight into Michael’s rendition of “Memories” which was linked to “Sunset Boulevard” just like in the past tour concerts. We LOVE this new interpretation of both songs. Simply stunning. We actually catch ourselves holding our breaths for the final note of Sunset Boulevard. Talk about money notes!
Michael then asked, if we were up to hear him sing something new, something he has not done before, but we’d all know very well. We cheered him and were eager to see or rather hear what was in store for us, when he quickly crossed himself, sending a last minute prayer to the god above. Surely it cannot be that hard to sing, whatever he’s up to, we thought. And anyways, he had the crowd eating out of his palm. Definitely no need for nervousness. But that’s what marks the true professional: He wants to deliver 100%.

“You’ve lost that loving feeling” by the Righteous Brothers was the brand new song and when we reached the chorus Michael was joined on stage by The Overtones. It was a fabulous rendition and Michael really did not have any reason to fear it, as we knew.

Michael started to explain how the Overtones had come to join him for this concert tonight. He said he had heard them perform on Radio 2 that very morning and tweeted them and somehow the ending of the story was lost, when he drifted off into another direction but we assume that they very spontaneously agreed to appear on the very day of the concert after some to and fro tweeting and so had not had much time to rehearse together.

He owned up, that they rehearsed the following song a full half time, so really hoped it would work. He needn’t have worried a wonderful medley of “Bare necessities / I want to be like You” from the Jungle Book sent us partying into the interval, which came much too quickly.


On the road with Michael Ball.
August 2022
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