As the ever jovial and industrious compere Gary T Davies welcomed bookers in song with a version of Billy Joel’s My Life, the scene was set for what proved to be a barnstorming final showcase session.
Cockney singer Karen Black has the look of a function band singer who is dipping a tentative toe into the solo market. Looking a million dollars on stage, this expansive and chatty artist, appearing in her very first trade showcase, did well but her showcase learning curve may have taught Miss Black that asking questions of showcase audiences means you have to be prepared to deal with the answers.
As compere Davies pointed out during his introduction of the next act, Beatles for Hire, this is 2013 and not everyone can afford a Fab-four, so how about a tribute to Lennon and McCartney? Sadly we didn’t see much of this act as a short and truncated performance brought about by illness drew sympathy and understanding from the trade crowd, who I’m sure will want to see these guys again at some future date.
Irish comedian Leeroy James opened his set in song, before launching into the funny stuff. The main problem encountered by singing comedians in showcase situations is they never know how to pitch both talents within one short appearance. James is a larger than life funny-man and is blessed with a dry line in wit, even if many of the gags were well past their sell-by date.
Having recently appeared in Thriller - Live in the West End, singer John Moabi is one of those gold nuggets that bookers wait so long for in showcase situations. His closeness to the vocal inflections of Michael Jackson was produced with jaw-dropping vocal accuracy. All the thrusting moves are here from the best and most vocally precise solo tribute I have seen in years. In short a stand-out performance from an outstanding tribute performer.
A family group who go by the name VTF came next. Here we have dad on guitar and his three harmonising offspring, one boy and two girls. All clad as if heading for a funeral, this likeable ensemble gave us two acoustic numbers and a version of the effecting Katie Perry track, Jar of Hearts. The main selling point here is the family angle and the youthfulness of the three teenagers on stage. I’m sure there is work aplenty for this lovely family act.
Three-handed magic, illusion and comedy patter act, Slightly Unusual, came next. Here we have a quirky and witty act, which is impressive, fresh and original. Television would surely love this 21st century take on the art of the illusionist. Here we have a male iillusionist who is like Derren Brown on speed, while his sage and acerbic partner makes an admirable foil. Completing the line-up is the obligatory female assistant, but this performer is no superfluous prancer. Instead she seems all too aware of how goonish and plain daft her male colleagues appear on stage. In short, Slightly Unusual is the most original and ground-breaking new speciality act I have seen in many years.
Welsh singer Lee Davidge gave us a version of the Roy Orbison song Pretty Woman and a Status Quo hit, Rocking All Over the World, although Davidge was introduced as tribute to his fellow Welshman Shakin’ Stevens. To be fair he did open with This Old House, which Stevens covered way back when. Based on the principal that adding the tribute term to your billing tends to bump up your fee a bit, I suppose Lee Davidge knows what he’s doing.
The celebrated singer Julie A Scott is a talent show winner from the 1980s. Back then the main talent show was New Faces and the acts chosen to appear were all professional working acts, as opposed to the pliable and often gullible novices from today’s generation of talent show aspirants. The type of presentational skills that artists like Julie A Scott have learned along the way are not being passed onto the up and coming and this is such a shame. Julie A Scott is as elegantly gowned and tuneful as ever and always such a pleasure to spend a little time with.
Comedian Sean Percival gave the type of lift to the second evening’s show that his fellow funny-man Mike Lancaster had managed to inject during the first evening at this showcase. Percival is a comedy natural and he is surely the funniest thing to come out of Dudley since Lizzie Wiggins (the Duchess of Dudley) and Lenny Henry. The humour was sharply observed and straight to the point and his comic star is sure to be in the ascendency.
As far as I can recall, this is the first time I have ever seen an Engelbert Humperdinck tribute singer and Scott Dee is the man in the white crooner’s suit. The impression was sincere and the sound-alike quality will please many of the great man’s fans - especially those who remember Engelbert at his best and not the pale shadow of the performer we squirmed through, as he performed that appalling dirge at last year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
Alison D became widely known as the dynamic and diminutive singer from the top band Night Games, who were managed by the top agent Malcolm Feld as I recall. Carving a career as a solo career now, Alison D is sure to do well after this impressive showcase outing. Top drawer vocals and lots of bumping and grinding are always a feature of this singers shows and she was in fine form yet another at this flagship event.
Closing the show was the Commissars, a vocal trio who specialise in soul and motown classics. Two of the members of this long established act have been joined by a much younger member, who is the proud owner of an impressive falsetto voice. Getting this young man measured up for a suitable stage suit will complete an already promising picture for this highly saleable act.
Well done to producer Gary Hearne and the sound and light team of Matty Roberts and Gordon Milton for keeping everything swimming along nicely over a day and half of top Paul Bridson talent. Most of the acts on show would have been of interest to at least one or two bookers and I can’t say that about every showcase I attend.