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Ramin Karimloo review at London Palladium – ‘Broadway meets bluegrass’

Ramin Karimloo
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“Do you mind if I do another from Les Mis?” asks Tony and Olivier nominated singer Ramin Karimloo, before launching into Bring Him Home. We don’t mind. In fact, roused to false expectations by opening with Anthem from Chess, it’s surprising that this concert-cum-gig doesn’t feature more numbers from musicals considering Karimloo’s played some of the biggest parts going, including Valjean and the Phantom.

Instead, the performance is much more of a showcase for Karimloo’s own compositions from his EPs, a bit Tim McGraw-esque country and a bit Mumford and Sons lite. He’s backed by an excellent band, including the stunning Hadley Fraser (Marius in Les Miserables, among other roles) whose effortless, character-laden voice and endearing nonchalance threaten to steal the limelight. Fraser and Karimloo bounce off each other well between songs, especially when they goof around after Fraser fluffs the opening to Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.

By doing it in the Palladium, where programmes are a tenner each for photos of Ramin and where Louise Dearman (Wicked, Guys and Dolls) pops onstage for a duet, show tunes are kind of what’s expected. They’re the songs that get the best response too, including a standing ovation for Music of the Night.

It’s not that the bluesy banjo inflected stuff is bad, it just sits awkwardly alongside belters like Anthem. Karimloo has dubbed the mishmash of genres “broadgrass” – Broadway meets bluegrass. But the two aren’t comfortable bedfellows and as sweet or pleasant as Karimloo’s own compositions are, they’re the weaker links in the setlist.

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Broadway meets bluegrass in this mixed bag of a concert from Ramin Karimloo