The reason behind this gig was to raise money for the performances of She – The Musical which will take place in Cheltenham in February 2012, and Rob Henderson had managed to fit over 30 of us into his front room to allow this to happen. I knew this was going to be a lot of fun. It was at Rob’s house for a start, and having seen Magenta playing an acoustic set there I knew it was the perfect location for something like this. And it was Clive Nolan playing a selection of numbers from various times in his career, including some parts from She, with a few of the supporting cast from She there with him (and more on who they were as they take part). I had a very good feeling about the side of Clive we might see, having seen him with Shadowland, and I was not disappointed.
So we had Clive and a keyboard, Mark Westwood and an acoustic guitar, and to begin proceedings Agnieszka Swita, and they opened with The Eyes Of Lara Moon by Arena, which I had just recently seen Arena perform at Summer’s End. Mark strums in deep on guitar and the piano comes in under that as Agnieszka begins to sing in a very precise and direct manner, which works very effectively with the music, and all too soon it is finished. Clive then entertains us with some witty inter-song chat, telling us that “this has got nothing to do with the next song we are going to play”.
They continue with a couple of songs from Strangers On A Train, beginning with Lightshow, the piano rippling in melodic and upbeat. It is soon joined by the acoustic guitar, then Agnieszka sings on top as it gradually builds, and it breaks open as Clive sings within the chorus. Next up is Sacrifice, opening with a deep piano sound before rumbling off with stacatto vocals which soon flow away. There is an urgency to the sound until it calms and then rolls on before it takes off again, pausing as Clive sings in, then rattling away again to a finish.
Something from Shadowland is up next, once we have been treated to a funny story about Mark and the video in Poland. If you were there you will remember how funny the story was, and if you were not there I am sure Clive will tell you if you book him for a house gig. Mindgames strums in melodic and Clive sings as it bounces along. Clive and Mark are certainly treating this in a lighthearted manner, and it is a pleasure sitting there enjoying it as Mark plays out a little solo. “I’ve just got to tell you the other Mark story,” says Clive.
The Autra Vida album is available in Uruguay. Or probably from Clive at a house gig. We have Christina Booth from Magenta singing the song Autra Vida (Another Life) for us against a backing track. The keyboard sound comes in and she looks at Clive and says, “you’re supposed to be playing” before she sings into the deep, rounded sound. It really rocks along with Christina’s wonderful, light, tuneful voice. “Wasn’t she great, she’ll be here all week”, says Clive.
Now they get to the She part of the event. Embrace is first up, normally sung by the characters of Holly and Leo, this evening the singing duties are taken on by Agnieszka as light piano comes in. Then it takes off with bouncy piano and strumming guitar, before rocking hard as the vocals push and Clive joins on vocals, and it drives on to a sharp finish. Covenant Of Faith sees David Clifford on vocals as Leo, as he will be for the performances in February 2012. The deep piano sound is accompanied by deep vocals from David, which are full, rounded and strong, with a melodic edge, and the guitar strums into this grand, majestic sound. It is around this time that Nellie from The Merch Desk writes Hello James ! in big letters in my notebook – it is a fun evening, so I do not mind. Vulnerable was originally written for She but never actually got into the show. It is sung for us this evening by David’s daughter, Soheila, who has just released her first single. She sings to a backing track, beginning with a deep voice which grows and then rolls away with a melodic, rounded sound, very pleasant to listen to, and she clearly has a talent. Now we are shown a knife and decorated scabbard which Clive got from Bolivia, and which will be one of the props in the performances for this next song, The Eleventh Hour. This is a duet between Agnieszka and David, and they act it out with real passion as they sing. The sound grows as their voices work so well together and then it soars, leaving us in no doubt that we must be there to see the real thing. The next song is Confrontation and features Agnieszka and Christina singing against a backing track. Christina sings in first, then Agnieszka sings in with her and they take it on. And again the two different voices work so well together, Agnieszka’s more direct and precise, Christina’s more flowing and softer. It is a very dramatic song to take us to the interval, and if we needed one it gives us yet another reason to get along to the real thing in February.
Clive tells us he is writing a new musical with a steampunk vibe, called Alchemy. One of the themes is when revenge turns to love. We get to hear Amelia with David singing to a backing track, and it does have much more of a musicals feel than a rock opera. Then Clive plays us a recorded version of Tide Of Wealth, and leaves the room while we listen to it. He knows this is going to come as something of a shock to a Prog crowd. It has even more of a musicals feel than the previous number and opens up into a bouncy feel which reminds me of some of the more upbeat songs from Oliver. There is much merriment and laughter in the room as we enjoy it. They continue with Sanctuary, with Agnieszka and David on vocals and Clive on piano. It has a dramatic sound and rises to a storming climax before settling and rolling melodic to a close.
They finish the musical part of the evening with another track from She, this time with Christina on vocals and Clive on piano. It eases along in a very pleasant way and Christina moves in closer to Clive as it comes to an end, and the evening has been as relaxed and enjoyable as that.
There is a short question and answer session, during which Clive makes the points that he can make more money in a month with Arena than he has in 5 years with She, and that once he has done the performances in February 2012 he has to move on from this project to Alchemy. So this will almost certainly be the last chance to see the full show, although he may do the 8-man show in the future. So do not miss it.
The evening is brought to a close with a song which has become their encore number, a cover of Hallelujah. Clive plays piano and sings, then Agnieszka joins in, and so do the audience for the chorus. Agnieszka sings the next verse, before Clive takes over again with strong, pushing vocals, and their voices come together and soar, until the track settles and rolls on to the end of an absolutely brilliant evening. All that is left is for Clive to add, “so when they’ve gone we’ll do the other hour.” He really was on form tonight.
You can see She – The Musical at The Playhouse Theatre in Cheltenham from Wednesday 22 February until Saturday 25 February, and tickets are on sale now. You can find out more details on the website http://www.shethemusical.com/