The snowy wastes of the North Wales border territory did not prevent the attendees from turning up in droves and filling the Grosvenor Pulford function room. This year’s showcase was a collaborative production involving the ever welcoming Paul Bridson and his corporate partners from Garston Entertainments in Liverpool.
Singer, comedian and compere Simon J entered resplendent in a suit as white as the winter snows outside. This chirpy chappy worked hard to set the scene and grafted solidly for the entire three sessions of the event.
Singer Vici Moran has apparently been a member of a well established duo for many years. Delving into the solo market, the blonde and voluptuous Moran demonstrated great patter comedy and top-drawer vocals. An artist whose naturalness and professionalism should ensure a place high in the solo female pecking order.
We were informed that singer Mike Powell appeared on Stars in Their Eyes in the guise of Scott Walker. Apparently, the tuneful Powell has discovered that the vocal timbre of Michael Buble is well within his grasp. Buble songs are notoriously difficult to cover due to the often complete phasing required to do them justice. Powell seems to have the knack of reproducing the tight, across the beat style of the real thing and his place in the tribute market would seem to have stretched yet further in terms of appeal, given the accuracy and ease of his vocal impression.
Comedy magician Gazzo has been plying his trade in front of American audiences for many years. Now back in the UK, this wise-cracking conjurer may find that a less risky opening and a clip-on radio head microphone may help his cause. There was an intimate feel to his close-up and personal close-up magic, which indicated a lounge-style entertainer. I loved everything about his performance, but, away from good class cruise ship work and odd sophisticated cabaret venues, I can see this act going yards over the heads of many British audiences.
Back2Back are an experienced yet youthful vocal duo, comprising Paul and Rebecca. With the look of theatre-trained/production show-style performers developing a cabaret act, there is plenty of vocal quality to enjoy. I would speculate that many employment avenues await for this likeable pair - the only question here would be which avenues to proceed down, given their eclectic and versatile look.
Male/female comedy duo Slapdash adopt the grotesque route. Perhaps the all too apparent overkill in terms of the implausibly tatty stage wear and the lack of explanation regarding how such an odd twosome actually ended up on a stage really only combine to conspire against them. Quick-change skits on Susan Boyle and the Phantom of the Opera proved to be a less arid comedy furrow in terms of audience reaction. However, the superior quality of their singing voices only added to the incongruity within the substance of their extremely puzzling performance.
Singer Becky Morgan looks like an experienced club entertainer and there is considerable vocal quality here, despite the rather coarse style of vocal delivery. The otherwise impeccably turned out Morgan may discover that visible tattoos are frowned upon in some circles within the entertainment industry. Obscuring the artwork beneath a well chosen gown may have helped her cause, particularly in the eyes of cruise bookers, as a rock chick meets cabaret singer style seldom works.
Close-down is a male vocal duo who opened by taking a crack at the Kings of Leon rabble-rouser Sex on Fire. These youthful guys are a bonny pair and they can both sing, but they don’t really look like a fully rounded act to me. Probably popular on the family holiday centre circuit, the guys need to brighten up the presentational aspects, especially on the stagewear front. The harmonies aren’t too strong either, with much of the live vocals being sung in unison. Lots of work to do here, but there is certainly potential.
After a welcome break, it was the turn of singer James Franklyn to do his thing. As was the case with a number of acts on the showcase, Franklyn has the look of an experienced clubland-style singer. The patter and subsequent line in crowd approach indicated someone who is used to chatting the crowd up and the general humour and some great one-liners combined to hammer his point home. Franklyn does ask a great deal of his voice, however, and qualified advice on how to develop a full and complete chest voice may help his cause.
As was the case with the earlier comedy magic act, Canadian female magician Billy Kidd’s contribution was witty, small-scale and definitely lounge-style entertainment, as opposed to a big stage act. When presented in even an average-sized cabaret room, small-scale card tricks, especially those done without the aid of music and other larger accoutrement, are often lost on those seated far away from the stage. An escapology item formed a comedy climax to a performance which was filled with comic innuendo and good fun.
Back to tribute-land and it was time to meet singer Beth McCann, who gave us her tribute to Duffy. A great vocal soundalike and nice to see McCann accompanied acoustically, on one number at least, by a guitarist. An in-vogue tribute which surely has plenty of market appeal.
Comedian Aiden Jay delivers all the fat gags and lives up to his ample frame with tailor-made material, which is both inoffensive and self-effacing. Jay’s gentle humour will go down well in front of those who don’t want the aggressive, in-yer-face stand-up comedy.
Classy duo La Musica are touring the showcase scene this season and clearly their act is finding favour almost universally, with some great work being bagged already, so we hear. Classic cabaret renditions and light opera, presented with a winning smile, is their stock in trade. This attractively presented male/female act gave an object lesson to deliver within the often stressful trade showcase environment. Cruise ship headliners already, there is surely much more to come.
Someone should tell men of a certain age and shape that they really have to be careful what type of material they cover. Deemo is the unlikely name of a mature singer whose version of the Kings of Leon’s Sex on Fire was, at the very best, a huge mistake. Surely this guy should concentrate on delivering stand-up comedy, which is definitely his forte.
It’s debatable whether the tribute market has absorbed and is actually finding work for more Abba-style acts than Blues Brothers acts these days. At any rate, their ever-increasing ranks are being swelled all the time, or at least it seems so. The Jake and Elmwood on offer to close the first night of the Paul Bridson showcase was The Blues Brothers On a Mission. After informing us that they need You, You and You, these guys sang their hearts out from Soul Man to So Glad You Made It and, to be fair, these guys were one of the better examples of this done-to-death tribute I have seen on my travels lately.