Gig Review: Alfie boe, The Playhouse

Phew, Alfie Boe isn’t half a dynamo on stage. It’s as if he’s been possessed by the spirit of the Duracell bunny, bouncing around like Mick Jagger, just with the sort of swagger you get from an earnest young music teacher trying desperately to interest the kids in something new, rather than a megastar.

Alfie boe

The Playhouse

* * *

He seemed to surprise even himself with two energetic leaps into the audience from the stage.

Yet Boe’s no slouch in the sales stakes, with latest album Storyteller his sixth release in as many years. First coming to prominence in 2002 as the lead in Baz Luhrmann’s controversial Broadway adaptation of La Boheme, Boe has comfortably straddled the often mutually exclusive worlds of classical music and musical theatre ever since. One of the Valjean Quartet, he is highly regarded for his rendition of Bring Him Home alongside fellow Les Miserables alumni John Owen-Jones, Simon Bowman, and Colm Wilkinson.

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For his fans, the Storyteller tour is a side step into less familiar territory. Going back to the music he grew up with, Elvis, Simon and Garfunkel, The Walker Brothers, Boe has put together a collection of songs that represents a more personal journey.

Outstanding production values have been applied to the show, with spot-on stage management and excellent sound and lighting engineering, no matter how you feel about the overwhelming wall of noise and dazzling flash of yellow bulbs hurtling at you as the night unfolds.

Support act Emilia Mitiku’s mellow, beguiling opening set demonstrated just how well the sound was adjusted for such a large space.

Boe’s band are a fascinating diversion, a talented if motley crew, they all seem to inhabit their own stereotypes perfectly – the lead guitarist is a proto Brian May, there is a herd of awkward young violinists channelling Vanessa Mae and a brass section straight out of a smoky jazz bar. It’s hard not to imagine Boe driving a minibus around the performer’s area at Glastonbury luring in lost musicians with the promise of food and shelter in exchange for music. Yet for all the frantic bluster of his Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood and If I Can Dream, it was his traditional trio of Italian songs and audience favourite Bring Him Home that saw him at his best. Even if encore Rank Strangers To Me left a haunting aftertaste.

Josie Balfour

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