Thursday, October 30, 2008

I just found this online from The Independent last Sunday in a review (unnamed writer) of Oasis at Wembley and Alphabeat in Newcastle:

Oasis "make a noise which is worthy of the term "wall of sound", but it's a featureless wall: grey, municipal and concrete, with a "No Ball Games" sign in the middle."

"Alphabeat are six people who see capital-P Pop as something to believe in passionately, rather than a means to an expedient end. In the Popism vs Rockism war, Alphabeat are the anti-Oasis. They exemplify everything in this world that is pure and good and right, and if you hate them, you're the enemy."

Damn right.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I have seen the future - and it's shiny and Danish! Last night we braved the weather to go to Shepherds Bush Empire and see Alphabeat.

Now you know how sometimes an album just hits you at the right time? This year that album for me has been THIS IS ALPHABEAT. After a quick glimpse of the "Boyfriend" video I pelted out
and bought the album and it has been seeing me through some dodgy old times this year... many an unhappy hour in the Borehamwood job was made bearable by the powerpop of Alphabeat.

So I quickly booked tickets when their tour was announced and then the gnawing doubt started... what if all the things I love about them was just studio invention? What if they were in fact an acoustic folk band??

I nervously took my seat with Owen - who went despite being appalled at them doing a whistling poptastic cover of PUBLIC IMAGE. After the bizarre Pandering & The
Goldiggers - a sort of 2008 Boney M with two girls and a camp bloke with a tiny voice - and the upbeat Das Pop from Belgium, 3 skinny lads and a Giant Haystacks lookalike it was time to meet the Beat. THEY WERE FANTASTIC!!! The usual knob-offs of people coming in and out of the row and friends of Das Pop yakking away behind us could not stop an insane grin making me look like I had a fliptop head and wearing my hands out clapping along. They were everything a pop act should be - bouncing all over the place, happy at all times - even during the ballads, an excellent light show which drenched the stage in colour... and of course, loudly thumping their great songs at us. The songs had a bigger monolithic sound to them - like having giant pop juggernauts coming at you every four minutes! They played all but two tracks off the album - Owen was happy that PUBLIC IMAGE was left out - and they also filled out with some new songs which seem to be carrying the sound forward into a slightly edgier territory.
Owen asked who was my favorite before it started - like all great pop acts you should feel they are all dolls you can play with - and I said Stine the girl singer but now I have to say it's Anders SG - he never stopped moving and had a great voice. However I would happily have the whole set of 6 if possible - (see picture above) Anders B the guitarist, Troels the thumpy drummer, Rasmus the keyboard player (with growable hair), Anders SG, Anders R the bassist and Stine. I would keep them in the original boxes and *everything*.Favorite tracks? Oh I don't know.... all of them. However I know I was in Pop Heaven during "Boyfriend" (eeeeeeek), "10,000 Nights", "Fantastic Six", "Touching Me Touching You", "Go-Go", "What Is Happening" and of course "Fascination" which they did as an encore with all Shepherds Bush singing, clapping, screaming - and that was before they let off the huge glitter confetti canons which totally obliterated the stage!
Oh and here is the photo of us all that Stine took halfway through the evening - sadly we were in the back-row of the dress circle! I am now quietly kicking myself I didn't book to see them tonight as well.

I loved it all!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

In the past few days I have seen two favorite female singers - one can cut it live, the other is showing signs of concern.

On Thursday Owen & I went to St. James Church, Piccadilly to see Beth Rowley. Now it's an impressive building in a COE way, but despite it's popularity as a music venue it kinda blows. It's first-come-first-served so if you were in the pews facing the stage - oh alright altar - you were ok. We got there about 30 minutes after the doors opened and had to make recourse to the - um.. dress circle. The seats that ran down the side were awful unless you were in the front row and could lean forward - even standing up you could only see a bit of the stage... altar. Luckily Owen managed to find a tiny mini-pew behind the two pews facing the stageltar down the length of the aisle. After two dreary folky support acts came and went it was time for Beth and I must admit to being a bit underwhelmed. It was the third time I have seen her and she seemed ill-at-ease and unsure during her whole set. She was roadtesting new material which sounded ok but she was so listless on stage I really felt uncomfortable watching her. She mentioned that she was getting over a cold but even so.. there is such a thing as Doctor Theatre - even if it's in a church! She also had a mild kvetch that she wasn't used to playing to an audience that remained seated and her oddly-paced set was curtailed by the fact that the church had a curfew - so why pick the bloody place as a venue? She played a good selection from her LITTLE DREAMER cd which are always good to hear but I left feeling that maybe I should give her the go-by next time.

However all was put right with the world on Saturday when we saw the glorious Linda Lewis at the Jazz Cafe. I was a bit of a fan during her 70s heyday but have only seen her in little guest slots in bigger shows so I was a bit excited sitting in the mezzanine looking directly onto the centre of the stage. She made a dazzling entrance in a multi-coloured silk fringed affair and black dress and she was totally entrancing.

She sang songs from her lengthy career - she started her solo career in 1970! Her material is hard to define as it crosses so many genres - which I guess is why she has never achieved the longterm chart success she deserves but all her songs have a gentle, humorous, loving quality which makes her an artist that it's a joy to see. Her great 'cheeky eastender' personality was also much in evidence, joking and laughing with the audience and her band

Her backing band were great and none other than Sylvia Mason-James was on backing vocals - I nearly fell off my chair
when Linda announced who the aloof-looking singer with the bejewelled flat shoes was - it was nice to see Sylvia with someone other than the Pet Shop Boys. There was also a great middle-section with just Linda and her acoustic guitar.

My favorites of the set were ROCK-A-DOODLE-DOO (of course), REMEMBER THE DAYS OF THE SCHOOL YARD, BABY I'M YOURS (yaaaay!), IT'S IN HIS KISS
(eeek!), REACH FOR THE TRUTH, SIDEWAY SHUFFLE ("Ooo I nearly lost my bra shaking like that") and I KEEP A WISH. Speaking of which, when we got there I saw a cd lying a bit further up the table which on further investigation was a signed copy of the single of ...WISH - so that was a great bonus! Linda is hoping to have an album of new material out early next year so it would be great to see her again - and then I will definately not be shy about shouting out for THE MOON AND I when she asks for requests!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Whilst waiting for my train to leave I realized I had a magazine lying on the seat in front of me which turned out to be a copy of Reveal. I had never seen it before. Next to it was a free evening newspaper.

Needless to say the Three Weird Sisters of media terrorism were represented in both, the Sirens of Sleaze who go by the ancient Babylonian name of Jodkerkat.

Not trying to be judgmental or anything, but are people's lives really *that* empty to give a flying fuck about these oxygen thieves?The latest news on these fine examples of womanhood is Jodie is now a lesbian because she is fed up with men and is also looking for a sperm doner - Kerry is not going on This Morning again as the presenters had the temerity to question her soberness when she slurred her unfocused way through a live interview - Katie is stressing there is no problem with her marriage.

And all I can think when I see these Dark Angels of The Apocalypse is Kirsty MacColl's lyrics for her prophetic song FIFTEEN MINUTES:

"In Sunday papers every week
The silly words you love to speak
The tacky photos and the phoney smiles
Well it's a bozo's world
And you're a bozo's child"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I have to admit.... a little wee came out when I saw this
Just to say that the new album CATFIGHTS AND SPOTLIGHTS from The Sugababes is well up to their high standards - maybe one too many ballads but still a great addition to their catalogue. At least they will be able to sing these live... over the weekend I saw video of Girls Aloud singing their new single live on The X Factor - less happening on-pitch than Spurs.

Needless to say all the reviews for The 'babes last week harped on & on about the changing line-up of the group and only then grudgingly admitted that they are still a class pop act. What made this all the more absurd was that one such review was next to a huge article about Oasis.

Current score of ex-members:
Sugarbabes 2
Oasis 5

Elitism mixed with a heaped teaspoon of sexism. You get used to it when you are a Madonna fan too.

Meanwhile as seen on Perez Hilton's blog... One thing you can say about John McCain... he tells it like it is - clicky here

Monday, October 20, 2008

Last night was Boy George night! He was playing the Shaw Theatre where Owen and I saw him earlier in the year and it stands out for me as one of the best gigs of the year. The gig before that in 2007 had been at Koko and George seemed a little.. um... distracted.

No such problems tonight, he was in blazing form.
With his core band members of guitarist/composers John Themis and Kevan Frost and again backed by the soaring vocals of Lizzie Dean George had us in the palm of his hand from the get-go.

A little too much in his palm... there were times I could hardly hear him as George does attract a percentage of female fans who just holler
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO whether he is singing or not - I mean for fecks sake... George is one star who is worth listening to when he speaks, let him speak bitches! Anyways that was my only quibble - otherwise it was Pop Fierce. Cutting a dash in his usual glittery B-Rude ensemble of hat, jacket and 3/4s - the latter a brave design choice - George raced through the set and was loudly called back for three encores.
The setlist included CHURCH OF THE POISON MIND, DO YOU REALLY WANT TO HURT ME, DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE, EVERYTHING I OWN, GET IT ON, I'LL TUMBLE 4 YA, MISS ME BLIND, STARMAN, STRANGER IN THIS WORLD, SWEET TOXIC LOVE, THAT'S THE WAY, THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE, VICTIMS, VOTE FOR LOVE and particular favourites included thumping happy clappy versions of BOW DOWN MISTER and KARMA CHAMELEON. I think the song I loved the best was his new single YES WE CAN, a real euphoric anthem. Download it on iTunes now, 79p worth of pop pleasure.

We are seeing him again at the Shaw in November at the end of his tour - I hope he makes it a hatrick of memorable gigs.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Again I have to write about the passing of a true Motown legend.
Levi Stubbs - the lead singer of The Four Tops has died after a long struggle with cancer. Levi had been battling cancer since the mid-90s and this led to him having to leave the group in 2000.

Levi was 18 when he joined student friends Abdul Fakir, Renaldo Benson and Lawrence Payton in a doo-wop group. After several years on various labels with no hits but a polished live act, Berry Gordy signed them to Motown in 1963. They soon came under the artistic wing of Brian & Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier which proved to be the perfect combination leading to a dazzling collection of recordings - BABY I NEED YOUR LOVING, ASK THE LONELY, I CAN'T HELP MYSELF, IT'S THE SAME OLD SONG, SHAKE ME WAKE ME, REACH OUT I'LL BE THERE, STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF LOVE, 7 ROOMS OF GLOOM, BERNADETTE, YESTERDAYS DREAMS, I'M IN A DIFFERENT WORLD.... stone soul classics all.

Levi was a perfectionist and at times bridled at the production line ethic at Hitsville U.S.A. He also strove to invest the lyrics with real meaning - he even consulted an Italian opera singer to get to the real emotion of BERNADETTE. A natural baritone, Holland-Dozier-Holland would write and produce Levi's vocals for a tenor voice which gave the tracks his strained, sandpapery growl that has made them unforgettable.

When Holland-Dozier-Holland quit Motown after rows with Gordy the Tops found themselves eclipsed by the Temptations in the hits stakes and it wasn't until they found a sympathetic producer with Frank Wilson in 1970 that they started charting again. However Motown's move to Los Angeles in 1972 was the sign to leave and the Tops were back where they started... moving labels with occasional hits - they even re-signed to Motown for a while - and constant touring. Their last hits were the great INDESTRUCTABLE and LOCO IN ACAPULCO in 1988. Levi also had a personal success in 1986 providing the voice of Audrey II in the film of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, one of that film's few abiding pleasures.
I was lucky enough to see the Tops in 1971 at the Albert Hall when they were promoting the single SIMPLE GAME which reached #3 in the UK Top 10 - and I've just found out it had backing vocals by The Moody Blues yet. They were fantastic and I nearly toppled out of the box when The Supremes joined them for an encore!

When I saw that he had died earlier this evening I realised I was reading through moist eyes. I guess there are some people you think will always be around.
Wow... it was the wait for the rebuild of the New York TKTS booth in New York.
The booth is covered by a staircase of 27 ruby-red glass steps up to a 16 foot platform above the street affording great views of the Great White Way.

I know someone whose camera finger is getting itchy!
Clicky the picture above to see Mary Wilson of The Supremes accepting the Mobo lifetime achievement award on behalf of Motown Records and then doing a really good "Stop! In The Name Of Love" with The Sugababes.

Marvel at Mary! Smile at The Sugababes' intro - "century" indeed Amelle! Gawp at the balls-up Mel B makes at the start! Then gawp some more at her shiteous ensemble!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

She will still come and see us won't she?
Oh my chips.

We have tickets to see the force of nature that is Grace Jones next January at the Roundhouse.

I am letting out a little bit of wee.

With excitement.

And a tiny bit of fear.

I have been in her presence once before, in Glen Goei's dressing room on the opening night of M. BUTTERFLY at the Shaftesbury Theatre in *gulp* 1989. I think I actually stopped breathing.
Last night Owen and I braved the slightly enervating Soho Theatre to once again gaze on the dark glittering talent that is Justin Bond in his new show LUSTRE. Always a rollercoaster ride Justin was as entertaining as always but sadly his frocks glittered more than he did. He confessed towards the end of the show that he was still recovering from the opening night party - for which I hold Dawn responsible frankly. I just *know* she was the one plying him with champagne.

An ominous but soothing invocation was heard as Justin appeared on the darkened stage in... well a creation. I immediately thought "I bet he tried that number when he was a teenager". In black pants, dark tights and mesh-top the front was covered in floor-length coloured ribbons. It looked like a Bob Mackie Cher outfit sold by Lidl... and that set the tone for the outfits - although I did like his smokey-grey sequinned number. He sang a handful of fine song, interspersed with his unique and salty views on life, love and the joys of all things transgendered.

Justin was accompanied by the impossibly glamorous Our Lady J who played a fierce piano. Throwing her Ann-Margret-like mane of blonde hair around she filled the stage with sound. She even got a solo number "Pink Prada Purse" which was a riot - why not shoot men if you know they will probably dump you for their girlfriend? Oh and the girlfriend too. It saves an awful lot of time. I bought her cd from her as we left and I'm glad I did. The songs are startlingly original and beautifully performed.

We also had guest vignettes from Novice Theory, a shock-haired lad with a tiny accordian who sang an odd little song - he augers well for further investigation - and Dickie Beau giving us his own spin on
"Ain't Got No" from HAIR metamorphosing from a sad clown to a basqued harlequin with red glitter swirling around him. LUSTRE is playing until 1 November, Justin, Our Lady J and Novice Theory will be on each night with a different guest performer. It's a constantly engaging evening - provoking, tart and moving.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oh ker-fuck.

I know where I want to be on Monday January 12th. And it ain't here.

For one night only Natasha Richardson, Victor Garber, Christine Baranski, Laura Benanti and Vanessa Redgrave will appear in a fundraising concert version of Stephen Sondheim's A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. Vanessa sings Sondheim!

The ticket prices would bring on a new credit crunch - the cheapest at the back of the mezzanine being $150.

NIGHT MUSIC is being staged at the end of the year at the Menier Chocolate Factory and I have tickets for December. Only instead of Vanessa Redgrave they have Maureen Lipman.

To quote one of the songs "Every Day A Little Death".

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Well done Aravind Adiga who won the Booker Prize tonight for his debut novel "The White Tiger". You can't go wrong with the Booker if you have set your novel in India.

I won't be reading it of course. Not with my batting average.

In the 40 years of the Booker Prize I have read 4 winners:
Anita Brookner's "Hotel du Lac" (1984)
Michael Ondaatje's "The English Patient" (1992)
Roddy Doyle's "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" (1993)
Pat Barker's "The Ghost Road" (1995)

and read 5 nominated books:
Barbara Pym's "Quartet In Autumn" (1977)
Jane Gardam's "God On The Rocks" (1978)
D.M. Thomas' "The White Hotel" (1981)
Thomas Keneally's "Schindler's Ark" (1982)
Peter Ackroyd's "Chatterton" (1987)

Hey ho.
Dear God... they give awards for anything.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

On Friday Owen and I went to Koko - my least favourite venue - to see Amanda Palmer for the second time this year. But unlike her earlier gig at the ICA this was a full 'bells & smells' show with a full supporting ensemble. I am always quietly anxious before an Amanda show - will this be the one where it doesn't work for me? I enjoyed the intimacy of her ICA showcase so much that I was a bit worried it might all get a bit lost in the cavernous Koko. Needless to worry, she was as enjoyable as ever - but I am presuming that due to her broken foot she was sitting at her keyboard on the stage proper and not on a raised dias. Fatal at this venue with it's flat floor so apart from a few lucky moments the best I saw of her was her eyes, forehead and hair.

I did, however, have the unparalleled joy of having a zombie Amanda shuffle past me in a wedding veil and her best fixed stare - well as fixed as she could be pushing through a crowd in the dark with her broken foot in a cast. She's brave I'll give her that.

She tore through most of her WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER? album as well as some Dresden Dolls favourites.
Stand-outs were a compelling "Strength Through Music" her song of a high-school gunman; "Guitar Hero" with her Australian dance troupe The Danger Ensemble joining her at the front of the stage in full air-guitar wigout; "Coin-Operated Boy" - always a pleasure as that's the song that made me fall under the Dresden's sway originally; her 21st Century torch song "I Google You" and "Half Jack" which had a concerto-style opening with cello and violin augmenting Amanda's keyboard. The show ended with her miming to Rihanna's "Umberella" with the Ensemble doing full brolly work ending with a bottle of wine being splashed over them from above - inspired lunacy.

The show ended with a showstopping version of "Leeds United" as a v-sign to her record company who have intimated to her that she looks a bit fat in her video for it! "Who do they think I am? Britany fucking Spears?" So she gave it a huge production number dancing with a line of gold sequinned chorus girls - until the Ensemble manhandled them off the stage so they could join in.
An odd thought crossed my mind watching the scantily-clad Amanda cavorting with her showgirls - what an interesting Sally Bowles she would make!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Last week was a bit of a blur with 2, count 'em 2, trips to Beckton at the end of the Docklands Light Railway where I had a job interview. Once for a reconnaissance and then the actual interview. If I get it - God I slay me sometimes - that will be another 90 minute commute. Oh joi. Much more importantly I managed to get in three trips to the theatre.

On Tuesday Owen & I went to see the revival of WAR HORSE at the National - who don't want me as a Box Office Assistant by the way. See how a love of theatre can overcome feelings of pyromania? We were both emotional wrecks after seeing it last year so we were keen to see it again. Oh yes, there was blubbing again. But as before, we were not the only ones. The climax of the play again had the whole Olivier auditorium stifling sobs... and not so stifled as with the woman behind us.

My thoughts on this remarkable production haven't changed since last November but I was struck by how anonymous the cast was. No one gives a particularly memorable performance apart from Bronagh Gallagher as the young hero's firm but loving mother. Sadly the overwrought "Ve Haff Veys Off Making You Neigh" performance from Patrick O'Kane stood out for all the wrong reasons. Playing the kind-hearted German soldier who 'adopts' Joey the horse on the Western Front O'Kane gave a performance which would have been better suited to the role of the Emcee in "Cabaret".The real stars of the show are the puppeteers who manipulate Joey and other animals that appear in the story - including the scene-stealing goose. I overheard a woman in the interval say "Oh they are so lifelike" which isn't actually the case. The magic of the production is that although you can see the puppeteers inside and alongside the 'horses' the heightened reality allows you to make the leap of imagination needed to cancel them out. It is the stylised theatricality that creates so many arresting images - the horses transported to France; the futile cavalry charge into the German machine guns; the tank that appears from nowhere; Joey trapped on barbed wire and many more.WAR HORSE is currently booking until January 24th and if you have not seen it I urge you to do so. It's an experience that will stay with you.

On Wednesday we saw one of the last performances of the comedy THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES by Joanna Murray-Smith at the Vaudeville. This reunites several people from the National's production of Murray-Smith's HONOUR a few years ago: actors Eileen Atkins & Anna Maxwell-Martin and director Roger Michell. Despite a blazing, award-winning performance from Atkins as a woman suddenly facing the end of a happy marriage I thought the play was fairly lightweight for the talent attached.

The inspiration for FEMALE OF THE SPECIES was the incident in 2000 when Germaine Greer was held captive by a younger female student who had broken into her home. Here the incident is played for laughs - which is probably why Germaine is spitting feathers over it.
Margot is a famous writer on the female condition who has survived the years by cutting her cloth to suit the fashionable length - anti-men/pro-men, anti-children/pro-children, anti-marriage/pro marriage. But now she is struggling with a new book having exhausted all avenues and mindful of the dumbing-down of the publishing world. She is so preoccupied it takes her a few minutes to realise that the young woman she is chatting with and who has suggested the title for her book has in fact just walked through her French windows unannounced.

Molly turns out to be a student dismissed by Margot as having no talent in a writing class. She also announces that her mother was one of the women in the late 1960s whose life was changed by reading Margot's groundbreaking "The Cerebral Vagina" and left husband and daughter, she was also clutching the book when she threw herself under a train. Molly pulls a gun from her bag and handcuffs Margot to her desk and gags her. It's payback time.

However her moment of cultural revenge is sent awry by the sudden appearance of Margot's daughter Tess driven to distraction by the demands of her children, Tess' ineffectual husband Bryan, the un-new man taxi driver Frank who drove Tess there and is stung by her uninterest in his divorce and finally the deus ex machina of Theo, Margot's gay publisher.

The play then turns into a sub-Shavian argument of the various points-of-view of the characters: Tess is angered when she overhears that her mother thinks she has wasted her life by getting married and tethering herself to hearth and home and urges Molly to shoot her. Tess also tells Bryan that for all his new-manisms she wants to be excited again. Bryan stands up for himself as Frank also vents his spleen on what women want men to be.
I just wish I had liked it more. Again I found Murray-Smith's writing to be all surface and no substance - and lord knows there's plenty of material there to get to grips with. There were plenty of nice one-liners but ultimately it was all a bit frustrating. All of this is due to the disappointment I felt at the end - the gay publisher appears out of nowhere and guess what? Yes he turns out to be Tess' unknown father, the result of one of his last pre-coming out shags with Margot at a party in Chelsea thrown by Mick and Marianne. Of course - why else have a homosexual character if it's not for them to have had a hetrosexual encounter. That was when I realised how facile the piece was which up until then had *just* been disguised by the constant one-liners. The play then ended with all the characters going off to eat in the kitchen after Molly and Frank had been given book deals by Theo. Stuck for an end where we Joanna?
The cast gave it their all, making bricks from Murray-Smith's straw. It's always a pleasure to see Sam Kelly on stage even if his ridiculous character of the publisher put my teeth on edge. I found Anna Maxwell-Martin as the vengeful Molly as unlikeabe as I have always thought her on stage. In truth I wanted to see the play for two reasons, and they didn't disappoint. Sophie Thompson was huge fun as the young mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown, losing her mind with the frustration of not genetically knowing how to make a balsa-wood cinema for a school project or knowing where Pokomon goes on his holiday. She somehow stayed *just* on the right side of the top without going over it. I have been following Sophie's career for about 23 years now and it's always a joy to see her. Even if I wussed out of going to *see* her afterwards.And then there was Eileen Atkins as Margot who was simply wonderful. No one does disdain as well as her. From her opening scene, on the phone to her publisher while wrestling her bra off under her top, to her condescending chat to Molly before she realises the real reason for her visit, to her exasperated interjections at the moans of her unexpected visitors she was just great. Hopefully she will be remembered in the Best Actress awards for this year, I'm sure she's got room for a few more to go with all her others!
Okay... enough of the west end - it was time to travel! Out to Stratford East to be precise to see their new musical COME DANCING with a score by Ray Davies who also co-wrote the book. I can count the times I have been to this legendary theatre on the fingers of one hand which is to my shame as I always enjoy the experience. It really is a great community theatre with a personality all it's own. After having seen their production of "The Harder They Come" so often this year in other theatres I was determined to see this show there!
We were in D row of the stalls but found to our surprise that it's the front row as they took the ones in front out for tables & chairs in front of the stage to fit in with the Palais de Danse ambience. The other surprise was how low the seats were! God knows what they are like with other rows in front - it was bad enough with the punters at the tables!! But all such thoughts were banished from my mind when the show started and there... there in front of me was Ray Davies... Ray bloody Davies!! The man responsible for "Waterloo Sunset" was a couple of feet away from me.

I never knew how much I loved him until I saw him on that stage! I couldn't take my eyes off him thinking "That's Ray Davies that is". Memories of watching him on Top Of The Pops with The Kinks back in the day singing about "Lola" came flooding back - and I remembered the white suit too. I remember knowing instinctively that "Lola" was about something I didn't really understand - but it conjured up all sorts of great images! He started singing a solo version of "Tired of Waiting For You" and that was it... I was glued to his every move.

He serves as the narrator to this delightful show inspired by the Kinks' hit from the 1980s of the same name and taking us back to when he was a boy and his three older sisters would go with his mum and dad to the Palais on a Saturday night and do the social, dancing and flirting. Julie, the sister closest to him in age is shy and awkward at the Palais because of a limp caused by Polio but she has a lively spirit which attracts her to Tosher, a local tearaway just out of borstal. At the Palais she meets Hamilton, a young Jamaican seeking his fortune in London but getting only the blank incomprehension of the locals and their thinly-veiled racism. The two misfits are drawn to each other despite Tosher's threats and the warnings of Frankie, the Palais' manager and crooner who sang with Julie's mum once. When Tosher is fatally stabbed during a fight on the dancefloor and Hamilton flees the scene, Julie has to decide whether to trust her heart or her head. The ensuing drama also is the catalyst for a long-held family secret being revealed.
I had deliberately not read any of the reviews for the show so it was good to react to the storyline as it happened and although I will agree with the reviews that say it feels a bit unfinished I would also stress that I found that totally endearing. The production has the same lively and slightly ragged feel that "The Harder They Come" had but that's what gives both shows such warmth and vitality lacking in so many shows these days. According to the programme Ray Davies has been attempting to get the show staged for about 11 years so it's great that Stratford East have given it the green light finally and Kerry Michael has given it such a fine production.
The cast put their all into the show giving energetic and likeable performances. It was nice to see Samantha Hughes again as the mother, I don't think I have seen her since the mid 1980s when her terrific tapping made her standout from the chorus in ON YOUR TOES. Delroy Atkinson was very good as Hamilton, his hopes slowly turning to indifference when confronted by racial injustices and Gemma Salter is a real find as Julie, a character that could be a bit saccharine in the wrong hands but she gave her a fiesty intellegence and has an excellent voice.

The other stand-out performances are from Alasdair Harvey as Frankie, the manager of the Palais as well as the crooner with the dance band who is desperately holding off the
encroaching threat of rock 'n' roll and who becomes more of a central figure in the second half as his secrets are revealed. This is the third musical I have seen Harvey in - he was the vulger boatman in the Menier's "Sunday In The Park With George" and was also in "Side By Side By Sondheim" at the Venue so it was good to see him in a role that really showed all his talents off.

The other fine supporting performance is from Wendy Mae
Brown as Rita, the rhythm & blues singer in the club where Hamilton plays the saxophone. She sang the bejasus out of the songs she has in the show and it's sad she is only given a tiny scene with Julie to act in. However she garnered a big laugh at the end when the characters lets the audience know what happened to them over the years.

And of course there is our Ray, no actor by a long way but who needs to act when you have natural charisma and that quintessential North London voice immediately recognisable from his songs, telling you the story. It is left to him to supply the coda to the the story, revealing an ending which illustrates how personal it is to him and which is genuinely moving.

I have snapped up seats for this Thursday's evening performance,
it's only running until 25th October so I recommend you get to see it soon. Do the clicky here