Elaine Paige leaves the HFC awestruck
Elaine leaves the HFC awestruck – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Review by Lee Trewelha, from What’s On Cornwall
You know when you do that thing for your parents, usually out of duty rather than love? My attending this concert by the British grand dame of musical theatre was a bit like that.
My mum, a huge fan of musicals, has always loved Elaine, so it was my treat.
Now, I have to grudgingly admit that the singer was responsible for my first hit of theatre; I saw Cats in London when I was 11 and sat in wonder. Memory dazzled, and my memory of that awe-inspiring night set me on a lifelong love of theatre in all its facets, so I wasn’t that averse to a night nestled between Elaine’s powerful lungs.
What the adoring HFC audience got was a brilliant performance of surprising songs by some of the best songwriters of the 1960s and ‘70s, performed by a singer whose voice hasn’t dimmed with age and whose cheeky personality and tales lifted ins into a very special evening.
The night started with a set by the John G Smith Band, whom she chose as her backing musicians after seeing them in a bar in Soho. West End musical director John’s personable, none-more-English chat and his Billy-Joel-raised-in-public-school were a lovely treat as an opener.
Then the diva herself walked on and, far from the musical theatre bluster I was expecting, there followed a wonderful selection of songs by Nilsson, whom the young Elaine obviously loved; Paul Simon (who apparently dumped her after a luxurious date when she was starring in Evita); Fleetwood Mac; Bread (Guitar Man featuring the band’s superb guitarist, James Graydon) and the incomparable Jimmy Webb.
A moving tale of filming a recent TV appearance in her first home and the memories stirred of her late parents led to sublime performances of Webb’s If These Walls Could Speak and Carly Simon’s Two Sisters, a beautiful song I’d never heard before.
Elaine lives this, and was visibly moved by the songs as well as the audience’s reaction. There were surprises aplenty – how about a Sgt Pepper medley including the audacious A Day In The Life?
The main set came to a majestic end with a perfect rendition of Webb’s MacArthur Park, Elaine bringing out the song’s emotion far more than Richard Harris’s admittedly peerless version ever did. In the top ten songs ever written. Fact.
Then she was back for an inevitable yet deconstructed Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina. My God, this was special. I had to stare at the ceiling to stop crying (it didn’t work) and involuntarily jumped to my feet when it finished as did most of the audience. Quite simply, this was one of the greatest vocal performances I’ve ever seen.
There followed Memory, of course, With One Look from Sunset Boulevard and Piaf’s If You Love Me, Really Love Me – showstoppers one and all, sating the musicals fans in the audience.
The singer and her fantastic band received an overwhelming reaction from the packed Hall and rightly so. This was undoubtedly one of the best concerts the venue has seen in its 20-year history.