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The Pheasantry. Aug 2013. Chelsea. London
An intimate evening where Lee debuted the material for his new show....
My very appreciative review of Lee last night. do not read if you are of a nervous disposition! (that's our Coofy!!)
What a lovely lovely gig, one to treasure, maybe one not to be repeated?I loved going to london for this quick drop in, sassy little trip to london in the evening, fancy! always wanted to see the Kings Road too so that was nice. it was bustling. jazzylou kindly got me a can of Pimms so we sat in this square, there was a real summery vibe. As you know Pimms goes down so easily and i was feeling nicely half sloshed before long! Doesn't take me much! Got to the venue, literally straight in and down to the basement to queue on the stairs for our seat allocation into the room. Aaargh, the anticipation!
Photo credit: Coofy New, The Pheasantry
The Pheasantry, Chelsea March 2016
by Jane W Photos by Lin
Friday morning 6am. My husband came in with a cup of tea.
“Seen the weather? He said.
I looked out of the window.
When I finished swearing I decided I had better get up and
out as soon as possible. Snow covered the road and heavy
flakes drifted constantly down from the sky as though all the
angels had a particular bad case of dandruff.
I had a train to catch and, more worryingly, a bus journey to
get to the station so instead of a nice lie-in I dragged myself
out of bed. By 7am I was at the bus stop so managed to get
to the train station before any serious snow-related bus
problems started. From there it was plain sailing – err plain
rail traveling. OK so I had a two hour wait for a train but
waiting is something Pheasantry-bound Loppies have to do
I arrived in London just before 2pm, checked into the hotel and set
straight off to meet J. I was sad not to have my friend with me as
planned. In fact over the course of the weekend there were rather
a lot of friends who had to drop out last minute – As well as all those
who wanted to go but knew they couldn’t make it.
But it was lovely to see the friends that were there. I walked into the Pheasantry feeling rather lonely but was immediately greeted by Lin and several others who invited me to pull up a chair. They made me feel so welcome. It was so nice catching up. While we chatted the band arrived and then the man himself. He didn’t notice us but went straight down the stairs to the venue (so I thought)
The time had come for the most extraordinary part of Pheasantry experiences – the queue on the stairwell.
We arranged ourselves in order of our arrival; then once we had established our places in the queue, just carried on with our chit chat. A few minutes later Stephen Rahman-Hughes arrived. (That’s one secret special guest sussed then). He laughed to see us queued up 3 hours before the doors opened but was very sweet and spent a little time talking to us before going in.
Then Lee himself appeared at the top of the stairs. We all hushed and turned towards him. He seemed genuinely nonplussed.
‘You’re here already?’ he said.
Various answers along the lines of ‘We always are!’
‘You’ll be sloshed!’ he said.
(Yeah right Lee because a tiled staircase is a really conducive environment for getting drunk.)
We laughed; he laughed; and he walked passed us smiling and thanking us for our good wishes for the performance. (He didn’t brave the public stairs again that weekend and I don’t blame him!).
For the next hour or so those of us lucky enough to be at the front of the queue were treated to tiny snippets of rehearsal every time one of the waiting staff opened the doors. Ooo there were some lovely strong Meady notes coming from the venue room. Talk about whetting our appetite.
Eventually the doors opened. I noticed that the really good tables usually set up for six had been separated into fours and twos. Hmmm.
My turn came to be seated. ‘I’d like to sit there,’ I said to the seating manager. I pointed at one of the sets of fours and twos and braced myself for his dissent.
‘Certainly, madam,’ he replied. A bustling waiter pushed the two and the four together. Later J told me I had been REALLY assertive. Oh dear. I’m turning into my mother.
Mind you the view of the stage was FABULOUS! We were joined by several friends, one of whom had booked as a solo seat. She took the place of my absent travelling companion. I was glad there wasn’t an empty seat where she should have been.
I’ll not bore you with details of the meal. I will just mention that as we were finishing, Mason, Will, and a violinist called John took their places on stage.
The lights dimmed.
After the first song Lee welcomed us to the gig, told us how much he loves playing the Pheasantry, and explained about the album. This lead to the title song ‘Some Enchanted Evening’.
For all of the performances he wore what he called his Some Enchanted Evening Suit – the one he is wearing on the album cover – and very suave he looked in it too. Hard to believe the sophisticated performer on stage is also our bumbling but beloved Lofty and the innocently boyish Aladdin. That’s called acting, that is!
That said these four concerts were far from being slick. They had a wonderfully relaxed and easy going atmosphere with lots of giggles between serious numbers, and Lee telling his stories as though they’d only just occurred to him, and as if unaware that 80% of his audience had heard them before. I think the ability to make every word sound improvised is something he has learned from panto. We laughed as much during the last concert as the first.
The story of his first snog with Louise has been embellished. She’s now 7 foot 2 inches. And during the ‘I Fall in Love Too Easily’ instrumental, he mimes attempting to kiss the much taller girl with comedy puckering up (which got him a lot of giggles) swapping seamlessly from delicious crooning to utter silliness and back.
He also had fun with ‘Singing in the Rain’ in a lovely
relaxed performance – asking for help with the
whistling then, in lieu of dancing on the cramped
stage, speaking over the instrumental with a
description of rain. According to Lee it makes
puddles. Who knew?
I think he sang all the songs on the album with the
exception of ‘By Myself’. The stripped back
arrangements made for an entirely different
atmosphere though especially John’s violin
(or rather fiddle) lent ‘Feeling Good’ an
unusual, vaguely Cajun feel.
‘Feeling Good’ was amazing again. His
power and passion are spell-binding.
We had two guest performers on Friday
Stephen Rahman-Hughes sang ‘Both Sides
Now’ and dueted with Lee on ‘Don’t Rain
on my Parade’. They put so much into that
song that Lee struggled with his next solo.
Wisely, they moved ‘Don’t Rain on my
Parade’ to the end for the rest of the shows.
Actually Lee changed the show quite a lot from the first one. For instance he sang ‘All of Me’ on Friday but replaced it in the other shows with ‘Fix You’.
Lee had managed to keep his second guest secret. I was delighted that it was Marti Webb. She treated us to a stunning performance of ‘Tell Me on a Sunday’. I could feel my eyes filling as she sang.
THEN Lee followed up with ‘Lullaby’. As he explained that Billy Joel had written it after his own breakup to reassure his daughter that he still loved her, Lee was overcome. He had to pause to compose himself. I don’t think I was the only one to shed a tear as he sang it.
Marti also sang ‘Get Happy / Happy Days are Here Again’ with Lee. They were both perfect. Marti is quite obviously a fan. The expression on her face when she looks at Lee is the same I saw on the faces all around me: adoration.
We got a little Q&A session. I can’t remember the questions now but they were all very sensible ones not touching on his personal life.
Things we learned that night: there’s big news about next year’s panto coming up in a couple of weeks, and he preferred staying in New York to L.A. He was of course very grateful that Lin had come all the way from L.A. (and was also delighted to hear that someone had come from Germany.)
The end of the concert approached Lee gave us one more surprise giggle - a rendition of ‘Sandy’ from ‘Grease’. With his collar turned up, he motioned sweeping back his hair and sang with overblown emotion that had us all tittering. When he came to the spoken part and his faux American unaccountably transformed into a Dracula impression the titters turned to guffaws.
Just before the end he drew out the winning raffle ticket for the tee shirt cushion. He seemed very pleased with the amount raise for Equal People Performing Arts. Well done those involved!
He finished with the charming ‘See You in My Dreams’ and then after calls for more, ‘Any Dream Will Do’. Wonderful!
From Facebook, we expected a signing but Lee evidently hadn’t got the message. He disappeared, and though he did return eventually, many of his fans had already left to get their trains.
When he did come back, he happily chatted to fans and posed for photos but there wasn’t a formal signing as such. I had a couple of CDs I wanted him to sign so took one to him. As he looked for a place where the black ink would show up I enthused about his acting on the previous week’s Casualty. He seemed delighted and told me how intense it was. Then he asked me whether I liked the album and I garbled something complimentary, Meadmush having set in.
On to Saturday and a lovely relaxing morning .
I hadn’t planned to do the long queue again on Saturday but after lunch at the British Library, I thought I may as well head to Chelsea to do a bit of shopping. Hmmm. After a look at the prices I decided that would be window shopping, confining myself to purchasing a silver sharpie for...well no particular reason you understand.
As I passed the Pheasantry, I saw Lin and Joan in the window so it would have been rude not to join them, wouldn’t it?
Before long others gathered – including a lovely group of girls we are now calling ‘The Young Ones’.
I had a really good time queuing. I was with my friends and the young lasses and we had a good chat about children’s programmes. And John the Fiddler spent quite some time chatting with us. He was ever so friendly and thrilled to be there.
Then the doors opened and channelling my mum again I asked for the same table for six. They’d squeezed a table for two in behind it so our group sat at the main table and we had two more lovely ladies behind. Brilliant to be surrounded by friends.
Now the waiting staff didn’t let any of us fans sit on the table next to us – Lee had reserved it for his family. OK then, we’ll allow that.
Saturday was the most popular performance – we were packed in there! The atmosphere was fabulous. Loads of excitement. And Lee and the band responded with an even better performance. Much of the content was the same though swapped about.
‘All of Me’ was dropped. We had ‘FixYou’ instead and he also sang ‘Want You Back for Good’, encouraging the audience to sing along, which was fun.
At one point in the evening he did a Cliff impression which I thought it rather good but I’m probably not the best to comment on it.
As usual, Lee asked where we’d all come from. A went shout out for the Yorkshire lasses and someone shouted ‘Norway’. He was thrilled to have his Norwegian fan in the audience and had a little chat with her.
Another random moment: Lee spotted a dish on one of the tables.
‘Mash!’ he exclaimed. ‘I want some mash now.’
‘It’s parmesan cheese,’ came the reply.
Later he brought a dish of parmesan to Steve when he went on stage, which flummoxed Steve.
Steve sang the same set as the previous night, (ooo I forgot he sang another song too – arrgghh – can’t remember the title but there is a line about the moon in it which caused Steve to reference Lee’s Rear of the Year) and once again the audience showed their appreciation big style.
Keith Jack was his second guest. This was the first time I’d seen Keith live since he played the narrator in Joseph. I think he’s come a long way since then and is putting more expression into his performance, though I realise his singing wasn’t to everyone’s taste. I also like that he’s grown a beard. I think it suits him.
Lee’s third guest was Landi Oshinowo, who played the Empress in Aladdin. I had no idea they’d been friends for years (though they had lost touch). You could tell they are very fond of each other. Now Landi was just stunning. She sang ‘If I was your Woman’ and ‘Natural Woman’. What a set of pipes that woman has! When Lee sang ‘Happy Days/ Get Happy’ with her...OK running out of superlatives. You get the drift.
‘Any Dream Will Do’ was the encore of course. This night the audience choir was enhanced by a trilling soprano. Thank you C!
After the show we said goodbye to those that had to leave. We were staying over so we weren’t in any rush and my roomy for the evening very gallantly didn’t mind staying to see if I could yet another CD signed (this time with my silver pen). The GO returned having changed into the top he wore on the Saturday Show. Oh dear. He looked gorgeous!
He signed my CD for me but obviously wanted to get over to see his parents so I moved away. Several other fans spoke to him briefly - I got back to my seat and started gathering up my stuff. As I was bending over I heard Lee saying excuse me and just started straightening when I felt him squeeze passed, Rear of the Year rubbing right against my … err … not Rear of the Year. Ooo that was nice! (What? Hey I get my pleasure where I can.)
We headed back to the hotel and finished off the evening with one or two little drinkies.
Sunday morning: the two show day. We decided to head to Chelsea to find breakfast – any breakfast that didn’t involve pizza really - and ended up having a very special experience. But having nothing to do with Lee I’ll move on.
Now my friend genuinely didn’t want to sit on the really close tables. But because there were only two of us and as I really wanted to have an up close and personal experience, she agreed to go for it. That meant turning up at the Pheasantry very early. It was really nice getting to know the other fans that had also turned up early, and very soon more familiar faces (I’m trying to avoid the term ‘old’ friends you understand because we are all just 27 – SHUT UP!! I am in my head!). Peppermint tea, and garlic bread then off to the stairs. Again.
There were fewer of us than previously. I think many of the fans might have had Mother’s Day plans that actually involved being with, well you know, their mothers.
Being third in the queue we had a choice of two close-up-to-the-GO tables and for once I was a bit confused as to which to take. We decided to go for the one at the end next to the stairs so we wouldn’t be looking up his nostrils. Oh my! What a wonderful view!
Ahem. Yes. So the concert. We’d been wondering how on earth Lee was going to finish concert number one in time to recoup ready for number two. Would it be shorter? The answer was yes. However Lee was not about short change us. He explained that he’d be going right through without an interval and told us we could go to the loo whenever we wanted to. No one did.
He had but one guest – the lovely Amanda Henderson. She sang two songs. I’m sorry I can’t remember the first but the second was called One Night Only and she sang it beautifully. She told us how much the Casualty team are missing Lee. Awww!
Lee’s version of ‘Sandy’ that afternoon turned into ‘oh Hendy’. Another awww!
I was worried that Lee’s voice might not last without a proper break but he sounded just as fabulous at the end as at the beginning. Mind you he sensibly sipped water throughout and paused for another Q&A session. Someone asked if he’d record a concert for a DVD. He explained that it’s too expensive. What a shame!
All too soon he was singing ‘See You in My Dreams’, and ‘Any Dream Will Do’, complete with enthusiastic backing from
the audience. No time to chat after the concert. We were straight out and back on the stairs. Well we could chat there!
So on for the very last concert. Now this was a strange experience because most of those at the evening had been there for the afternoon too. There were exceptions. We were supposed to have a table for four but very sadly one of our friends couldn’t join us. However we had the company of a really nice lass who I didn’t know and two good (ha – I didn’t use the word old!) friends that turned us into a table for six.
At first the room looked a bit thin but it filled up – it seemed with some celebs because Bobby Davro and Keith Lemon turned up, sitting at – well actually it was the worst table in the room I think, tucked in the corner.
So on came Lee and opened with ‘Where or When’. The line ‘The clothes you were wearing, you were wearing then’ caused some giggling (seeing as most of the audience hadn’t had achance to change.)
And later when Lee asked where we were from, the room filled with laughter.
‘What? What?’ He asked ‘So where have you come from?’
‘Here!’ came the shout back.‘What, Chelsea?’ You know I think he was winding us up. ‘No!’
‘So, Leeds? Doncaster?’ Cheers from the northern ladies. See he does know us. And there were mentions for other well-travelled fans too including Norway again.
Now really by now you would expect Lee’s voice to be faltering a little and perhaps on the softer high notes it was, but his powerful, sustained notes were still superb – ‘Feeling Good’ an avalanche of emotion; ‘Luck Be a Lady’ full of vigour...marvellous all of it. Just marvellous.
All of his guests were in great form – Stephen again (who told us how much Lee appreciates his dedicated fans); Amanda the sister Lee never had; a lovely young lady from Southend, Lily, who sang a beautiful jazz number; and Landi who raised the roof with Natural Woman. That show Lee’s ‘Sandy’ turned into ‘Landi’. Tee hee!
At one point Lee dedicated one of the more romantic numbers to Bobby Davro and his wife. As all the rest of the audience sighed ‘aww’ Bobby shouted ‘Do James Blunt!’ which had Lee corpsing.
He did it though! The James Blunt impression some of us got to see when Lee played Robin Hood two years ago.
I mentioned that Lee and Stephen left ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’ till nearly the end of the concerts. Well Sunday night’s was incredible. Both men put so much into it and filled the room with their phenomenal voices. I noticed Bobby D actually stand after it. The whole room gave Lee a full standing ovation after ‘See You in My Dreams’ - then everyone joined in for ‘Any Dream Will Do’.
A remarkable end to a remarkable weekend.
Thank you to all those friends old and new who made the weekend such a splendid one and turned the hours in the stairwell into a fun experience. Thank you my room-mate for keeping me company and for breakfast and drinkies; and to Lin and Joan for picking up my bill for peppermint tea; and to the patient Pheasantry staff; the wonderful guests; the fantastic band; and of course to Lee who has enriched my life not only by his talent, beauty and sweetness, but by being the means of finding so many friends – those who shared those weekend with me and those who sadly could not.
I’m stopping now before I blub.