Ramin Karimloo’s Broadway to Bluegrass . . . Ish 26th November 2012

Where do I even start with telling you how absolutely sensational this gig was? It is now 2 days since I was a part of the second night of Broadway to Bluegrass. . .Ish and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t STILL on a high from the whole evening!

So in the words of a song from “The Sound Of Music”, “let’s start at the very beginning, it’s very good place to start!”

A bit of background – I was originally meant to be going to both of Ramin’s shows – on the Sunday and the Monday – however, due to a family commitment, I was unable to make the Sunday. Although this made me sad at the time, I am so happy that I went on the Monday!!!

As I was at work on Monday and had a meeting after school, it was definitely going to be a mad dash to make it to the gig on time! Luckily, thanks to a prompt taxi and a speedy train, I arrived at the 229 Club with time to spare. The journey was also made alot easier by tweets from Hadley Fraser, Lee Mead and Stephen Rahman Hughes announcing they would be dropping into the gig that evening, along with Simon Bailey. I was one happy Blue Eyed Girl!

As Ramin, and his super talented band arrived on stage, you could tell by the atmosphere in the club that it was going to be an EPIC night – and I wasn’t wrong!

Kicking off the show with the stunning “Broken Home“, Ramin took all of us on a journey throughout what has been such an epic year and beyond for him. He took us all the way back to his Phantom days with a magical “Music of the Night“, through to the Barricades in a mesmersing version of “Bring Him Home” with the beautiful Katie Birtill, right up to present with tracks from his eponymous debut album and some personal favourites.

You could see how pumped up Ramin was to make this a special night for everyone – and believe me, it totally rubbed off on the crowd and everyone standing in that intimate space.

Many of the songs from Act One were a brilliant reminder of all the fun that was had on his “Road to Find Out” tour earlier in the year. Kicking off with the Cat Stevens’ tracks “Wild World/Road to Find Out“, we also heard the magnificent “Constant Angel” (that was dedicated to us!), and a new mix of “Down to the River to Pray/Cathedrals” – which is still as hauntingly beautiful now as when I first heard it.

We also had some new songs which were delivered with Ramin’s usual precision and stunning vocal ability. “See Her Smile” from the musical Tick Tick Boom suited his voice down to the ground, and “Make Them Hear You” – from the musical Ragtime – is definitely going to become one of Ramin’s signature songs. Having seen him perform this in Leicester at West End Men a few days before, this second performance was delivered with such power and emotion – the style that we all know and love Ramin for.

I must give a special shout-out to Ramin’s numerous special guests who really added to making the night so amazing!

I have talked about the phenomenal talent that is Simon Bailey in a previous post – but his stunning talent was really on show at tonight’s gig. He stepped on to stage to perform a cover of the Avett Brothers “Murder In The City” with Ramin, and also performed an original song of his own, the emotionally beautiful “Goodbye” – both which will be on his debut album “Looking Up.” I’m not going to lie, I had tears in my eyes during the second of those songs as it was clear to see how personal the words were to Simon and that he was pouring out his heart to all of us. I salute you Sir – it was breath-taking and I can’t wait to hear the album!

The late additions to the bill – Lee Mead and Stephen Rahman Hughes aka The West End Men – also put in a memorable performance, which was probably added to by the fact that Lee had had several drinks before Ramin pulled him and Stephen on stage – ha ha! “The Triad” – as Ramin referred to them as – performed “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” to a rapturous reception! Again, in a previous blog, I have spoken about what stunning talent Lee and Stephen have, but them together with Ramin – and it is pure musical magic! It was great to chat to Stephen afterwards too (Lee had to go for the last train!) – I’ve said it before, and I will say it again – this guy is unbelievably talented and I can’t wait to be able to blog about one of his shows/gigs in the very near future!

And then – there’s Hadley! It seemed like only yesterday that I sat in the St James Studio and watched Ramin jump on stage to sing with Hadley – but tonight, it was such an honour to see Hadley return the favour! We were graced with an extended Sheytoons Reunion, which saw performances of “Driftwood“, “Losing“, “She is Loved” – with Ramin’s memory loss moment and the phenomenal “Broken” – complete with mid track “Giddy Up” instrumental. Hadley mentioning the possibility of him and Ramin doing “something like this again” in January/February was also a crowd pleaser – fingers crossed!

These two when they are together on stage, be it at a gig like this or as part of a musical theatre production, are absolute dynamite to watch! The chemistry between them is absolutely electric and they play off each other so well! I have so much respect and admiration for them both as artists and people, having had the pleasure of meeting them both on more than one occasion, and I can truly say there are no two people who deserve as much success as these two do! Don’t you think this photo says it all?

As the show came to a close, we got to take a closer look into Ramin’s personal favourites. The superb “White Blank Page” by Mumford and Sons and “The Once and Future Carpenter” by the Avett Brothers reminded me of all the wonderful music that Ramin has introduced me to. His cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” also gave his sensational band the chance to shine in their own right – special mentions for the genius Steve Young, the beautiful Katie Birtill and the guitar maestro that is Sergio Ortega!

Solitude” and “Closer Walk With Thee” slowed the tone down and it seemed only right and fitting that “Coming Home” closed this unbelievable show. The look on Ramin’s face when the crowd sang “Coming Home” (as well as several other songs throughout the evening) back at him was pure magic and so well deserved for such a giving artist.

The encore was just as sensational with performances of the Civil Wars classic “Poison and Wine“, original track “When Does It Go Away?” and the brilliant Green Day classic “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” was our final goodbye to a phenomenal evening.

I can honestly tell you that you felt like you were listening to and falling in love with every song for the first time. Such a varied mix, all delivered with such sensational style and power. It also says alot about Ramin that even though he just wanted to go and relax with his friends post-gig, he spoke to everyone who was still there and thanked them for coming out – the sign of a true star!

If you hadn’t noticed – I had the most brilliant night! Have a look at these videos to see for yourself!

Ramin and the Band arrive on stage – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4cUGQVUH0I

Broken Home – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cK2icVR6czI

Road to Find Out/Wild World – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VK45VYCdIbE

Constant Angel – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtDYiu1-xC8

Music of the Night – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBPQmx6wya4 (with audience sing-a-long!)

Down to the River to Pray – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H48nzLzzBqA

Cathedrals – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXnP6NPHDf8

See Her Smile (from Tick Tick Boom) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZMACQSrw2E

Murder In The City (with Simon Bailey) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4KpkMmIGUw

Goodbye (Simon Bailey solo) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acgZszHwDVU

Make Them Hear You – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZlSxJttqWM

Oh What A Beautiful Morning (with Lee Mead and Stephen Rahman Hughes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teq40sy_Kzc

Driftwood (Ramin and Hadley) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mzRI8YBmBw

The Once and Future Carpenter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xepoEa5mZnU&feature=plcp (Provided by Selena79)

Closer Walk With Thee – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOyXSrGYf1I&feature=plcp (Provided by Selena79)

My battery had died by this point – so here’s what I missed!

Solitude http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LziEYU_F46M&feature=plcp (Provided by Selena79)

Bring Him Home http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2x0WwAUyvY (Video by Nikki Lewis – Sunday gig)

Folsom Prison Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASywzo9TC-Y (Video by Waggers789)

Coming Home – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWiO8Q6W-dU&feature=plcp (Provided by Selena79)

ENCORE – Poison and Wine (Provided by Selena79) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0oVOcc-8Us&feature=plcp


Special shout outs to all of my wonderful friends who I shared this brilliant evening with, and thanks to Kay Ineson and Selena Zafar for the awesome photos.

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx


West End Men In Concert – 23rd November 2012

It seems like only yesterday I was living it up in London at Les Miserables and An Evening With Hadley Fraser – hard to believe it was a month ago now!

This weekend saw the start of one of my last musical theatre fixes for 2012 – and what an epic it promises to be! This Monday (26th), I will be in London to see Ramin Karimloo perform at the second of his Broadway to Bluegrass. . . Ish gigs. But it was just 2 days agao when I got to spend the evening with Ramin, as well as Stephen Rahman Hughes, Lee Mead and Ashleigh Gray at the West End Men Concert in Leicester.

The journey to Leicester was certainly an epic one! With the recent bad weather, the trains seem to have been hit very hard, as was clear to see when it appeared that most of the population of Birmingham wanted to get on the same train as me on Friday evening: –

The jammed pack train journey experienced by myself and the super wonderful Rachel Hunter (who was one of many amazing people I shared this weekend with) meant that, once we got to Leicester, we didn’t have much time to get down to De Montfort Hall in time for the start of the show.
This is where I must give a special mention to the De Montfort Hall and all of its’ staff. I have never been to this venue or Leicester itself before and I can honestly say the venue was stunning! The staff were helpful and kind, and the main auditorium – well, let’s say there wasn’t a bad seat in the house – as you can see from my viewpoint, which was Row M in the stalls!
The set for the show was simple, with a series of different levels in order to highlight the performers, and several staircases for those “choregraphed walking” moments! The lighting, for a smaller venue was sensational – you would have thought you were in a major London theatre!
The set list for the show was a truly great mix of both musical theatre numbers, as well as personal favourites for each performer. The guys were backed up by an extremely talented band, lead by MD Will Stuart – who was also MD for the Phantom Cast’s “Jubilation” Cabaret recently in London.
The diverse set list began with “Pure Imagination” – and how apt the lyrics were for the show we were about to experience! Each of the “Men” got their own shining moment, and as a trio, the harmonies they produced were stunning.
I must give a special mention to each of the guys- as they were all given their solo time to show the audience what they could do!
I will be the first to admit that I was one of the many people who voted for Lee Mead to win “Any Dream Will Do” when he won the role of Joseph severla years ago – but it was great to see how much he has matured as a performer since then. He paid tribute to his Joseph roots by performing the spine-chilling “Close Every Door” – certainly gave me chills! He also showed his modern roots by taking on Coldplay’s “Fix You” – again, an excellent performance. Having personally seen Lee as “Fiyero” in “Wicked”, I also loved seeing him perform “As Long As You’re Mine” with the beautiful Ashleigh Gray (more on her later!).
The unknown entity for me in this show was Stephen Rahman Hughes. I had heard his name discussed in many musical theatre circles, but I had never heard him sing live before. However I need not have worried as he has such a stunning voice – I am just more concerned that it has taken me this long to discover his astonishing talent! He performed the magical “Journey Home” from the musical “Bombay Dreams” – the show which gave him his big break. Stephen also leant his amazing talent to his own versions of “Unchained Melody” and “Nature Boy” from Moulin Rogue. You could see from watching him on stage what a fun-loving guy he is – and I only hope that he gets another West End break soon – he totally deserves it!!

And then, of course, there is Ramin Karimloo. Now, any regular readers of this blog will know how much respect and admiration I have for this guy as an artist and so, there was no way I was going to miss Ramin returning to his Musical Theatre roots, even if it was just for one night! And I can honestly say, he looked and sounded better than ever! His solo numbers of “Sunset Boulevard” and “The Impossible Dream” showcased not only his sensational vocal range but his amazing acting abilities too! Ramin’s personal choice to sing “Make Them Hear You” from “Ragtime” was also so inspiring – and I have a feeling we may hear this song from him alot more in the future! We also got our own Leicester Hootenanny when Kayla (The Banjo) made a special appearance and the De Montfort Hall went all “giddy up” as Ramin sang “Oh What A Beautiful Morning!”
Not only were all of these solo numbers sensational, the group numbers were just as good – if not better! Personal favourites of mine included “Memory” and “You Raise Me Up” – where I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house!,  a medley from “West Side Story“, “Bui Doi” from Miss Saigon, “Paint It Black” and the encore of “Bohemian Rhapsody” – these guys were definitely embracing their “inner rock stars” in this show!
One of the other stand out numbers towards the end of the show was a slight surprise but a VERY good one! As a huge fan of Les Miserables (and as Ramin was my first Valjean), hearing the opening notes of “Bring Him Home” bought the biggest smile to my face. It also reminded me that as much as Geronimo Rauch (the current London Valjean) breaks my heart singing this song, Ramin’s version is just out of this world! And it got better – as “Bring Him Home” finished, the opening notes to “One Day More” began – and my smile got EVEN BIGGER! Proabably my favourite song from Les Miserables being performed by some sensational artists at the end of a great evening – what more can a girl ask for! (I have to say, even though it was unusual at first, hearing Ramin sing the Marius part of the song was an excellent treat!)
Ashleigh Gray was also someone who I had never heard sing before – and I was privileged to be witness to her stunning talent! She definitely has the best job getting to work with such talented and handsome guys! (And I told her this at Stage Door afterwards too!) She performed the Etta James classic “At Last” as well as a breath-taking version of “Defying Gravity“, as well as being part of several of the group numbers. Another phenomenal talent – who deserves such wonderful success in the future too!
I should also mention the Choir that supported the “Men” during Act 2, who were from Leicester Performing Arts College (or is that Leicester College Performing Arts Ramin? Ha ha!) who sounded sensational during “Bui Doi” and “One Day More.” Special shout outs to the soloists who took on the roles of Cosette and the Thenardiers for the finale – you guys sounded amazing!!!
As you can see, it was a brilliant show that was thorughly enjoyed by all who attended!
If you want a little taster, have a look at these videos of the show: –
The West End Men -“You Raise Me Up” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OY0lcQ4WnEg
The West End Men – “West Side Story” Medley Excerpt http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i06NG5ECxlM
(Video links from Waggers789, Aldrige1601 and MadisonJay16)
On a personal note, a HUGE thank you must go out to Rachel Hunter, Ali Broomfield, Rich Callegari, Helen Solano, Evelyn Wright, Doris, Claire Trillwood, Sophie Waghorn, and Skara Huit – who it was a privilege to catch up with back at the hotel after the show!
Next stop – Broadway to Bluegrass . . . Ish!
Signing off for now
Blue Eyed Girl X x x

Something different – The Killers Live In Concert

Now I won’t lie, but this post is going to be a little bit different than what you may have read from me before.  It’s not about theatre but it is about an amazing experience I had at a concert here in Birmingham recently.

The Killers are an American based band – straight out of Las Vegas, Nevada, who I have been a massive fan of for many years. They are best known for being a “festival band” and have a huge reputation when it comes to performing live! Every time I have seen them on the TV, be it at Glastonbury, V Festival or T In The Park, I have always wished that I could see them live and in person.

It was this year that I got this chance!

Not only would this be the first time I ever went to a Killers Concert, it would also be the first time that I had been to an event at the LG Arena on my own! (As I was unable to convince anyone to come with me) Although my seats weren’t the best in the world, I didn’t care!

On arrival, the atmosphere was already electric and this was before the support act even came on. Speaking of the support act, if you have never heard of Tegan and Sara, I would highly suggest that you look them up! They compliment the style of The Killers extremely well and are definitely worth a listen. They have been releasing material in the USA for a number of years but are hoping to break the UK as a result of this Tour. Definite ones to look up for sure!

After Tegan and Sara had wrapped up their set – then came the main event!

As far as the stage goes, it was kept simple. A large video screen at the back of the stage transported the audience from a Nevada desert background during “Runaways” to a whirling star spin for “Spaceman” and was then brought down to the black and white beauty of shots of the band and audience during the hauntingly beautiful new track “Here With Me

I have to say, the lasers, fireworks and glitter explosions really showed why The Killers have gained themselves such an amazing reputation as a live band.

Brandon Flowers is such a charismatic performer. He held the audience in the palm of his hand from start to finish and took us on such a rollercoaster journey. The rest of the band were sensational in their group and solo performances too.

The set list ticked all the boxes. Although there were several tracks from new album “Battle Born“, they stayed faithful to old classics, with tracks such as “Human“, “When You Were Young“, “Smile Like You Mean It” and “All These Things I’ve Done” getting some of the biggest audience reactions.

For me, my favourite moments were when the band performed “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr Brightside“. I have LOVED these songs for so many years and the realisation that I was finally standing, listening them being performed live by one of my favourite bands was quite overwhelming – and made this into one of the best concerts I have ever been to!

For just a taste of what the show was like, check out the videos below: –

Runaways: – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5X_3paiEBuc&feature=plcp
Smile Like You Mean It: – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnlVjdAmxAo&feature=plcp
Spaceman: – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdtrR8BeQD8&feature=plcp
Human: – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbAlkdE6Avw&feature=plcp
Somebody Told Me: – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpiTG41FoGs&feature=plcp
Read My Mind: – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZATolshpPk&feature=plcp
Here With Me: – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuvFQt_33to&feature=plcp
Mr Brightside: – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5WUtVA-oLA&feature=plcp
Jenny Was A Friend of Mine: – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pehJP9EZA7A&feature=plcp 
When You Were Young: – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvZ1aIvK-bQ&feature=plcp

I hope my regular readers haven’t been offended by my slight detour away from my usual topics, but I just wanted to share what was an absolutely sensational experience with you all! Normal theatre loving service will be resumed very soon!

Signing off for now,

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx