Friday, 17 September 2010

Jane McDonald Congress Theatre Eastbourne 17th September 2010

Jane McDonald In Concert
Congress Theatre
17th September 2010

Jane McDonald Congress Theatre Eastbourne 2010

We've seen Jane McDonald in concert many times and know what to expect as regards to content, presentation and quality. She never lets the audience down and you can guarantee the night will end with a rapturous standing ovation.

Since being discovered on the BBC's programme serial documentary, The Cruise, her singing has actually improved dramatically. She was very good initially but Jane's vocal range now is phenomenal and whilst I am not a fan of opera I have to say her sole operatic delivery in this show is excellent.

As regards to musical content apart from the operatic diversion Jane sticks to the type of music she is familiar for. Hand penned numbers such as The Hand That Leads Me (one of my personal favourites) are included. Jane always writes her own songs straight from the heart and from personal experience and they are always nice numbers.

Jane McDonald in Eastbourne September 2010Burt Bacharach's hits always get a heavy featuring and because they are delivered with such power and precision you couldn't tire of watching her perform them.

Then there's the splattering of other well known songs thrown in such as the music of Abba getting a delivery towards the finale.

There is no doubting it Jane McDonald is an exceptional singer who sings with soul, with passion and who sings TO her audience rather than just AT them.

It's a bonus that stills photography is permitted by Jane (with flash photography limited).  It was nice to see that it wasn't flash, flash, flash all night long. Many, like me, experimented with the flash off.
I also have to praise Jane's souvenir programme. As programmes go its at the top end of the cost scale at £8 but it is a very good glossy publication. Comparing it to The Real Buck's Fizz programme ,which was also £8, this is like comparing a Harley Davidson to a moped.

I don't think giving the show rating itself of 5/5 was ever in doubt but that wasn't the only reason we went to see Jane this time round.

Although we had seen Jane many, many times, including a brilliant performance at The Chelmsford Spectacular in 1999, at which she was accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, we have given her an intentional miss the past few years.

The reason wasn't the music but the dialogue. Jane has always been one to share her personal ups and downs with her audiences but I have to be honest and say this was beginning to dominate the shows and detract from the marvellous singing.The very last time we saw her she had just split up with Henrik and whilst sympathising with her very public despair and man hatred she did go on a tad. The end result was some bloke in the audience (and no it wasn't me) yelled "Oh no not all that again!". That was combined with a section of the show which was actually quite musically depressing with Jane dressed in black too. We came away feeling like we'd been to a wake rather than a show. We therefore decided to give Jane's concerts a miss for a year or three. A bit of a shame because she was a lovely down to earth Yorkshire lass who ALWAYS took time out to meet those who wanted to greet her with personal signings and promising that fame would never change her.

That promise is actually what persuaded us to give this show a visit. I can't remember which show it was after but earlier in the year somebody remarked to us how much Jane had changed after shows. Refusing to meet people, not signing her extensive range of merchandise as she always had before and that the people with her were actually very rude to them.

Having met Jane many times we didn't give this much of a thought until exactly the same thing was said to us by a couple as we talked to Bradley Walsh earlier this year. They said they would never go to Jane's concerts again as the people surrounding her just seem to dominate everything she does.

We still had doubts though as she had, without fail, always been one of the friendliest artists after the shows had finished. Her mainly elderly audience members used to love meeting her in the warmth of theatre foyers and having their new JMD CD scribbled on.

Surely that hasn't changed completely? We thought this was the year to investigate.

Incidentally I digress for a second to question why Jane now needs 35 minutes for an interval when every other act and artist on the planet seems to be able to make do with 20? Indeed even she never used to have these long breaks. It is far too long.

So the inevitable encores and multiple standing ovations out of the way we plodded round to the stage door. I'd had the sense to ask beforehand if there would be a foyer gathering as usual to be told bluntly 'no'. So things were not looking too optimistic as regards to me proving these peoples' reports on Jane to be false.

Several people went to the foyer expecting "business as usual" from Jane. They either soon got bored or evicted and joined us at the stage door.

A couple of  women told us this was now their fourth attempt to meet Jane this year (this was not looking good!) But they had high hopes tonight. I think it was clear now that Jane has made a conscious decision to change the rapport she used to share with her adoring followers and I told them not to get their hopes up in view of what I had heard.

After all they were only doing an 80 mile round trip to see this show. Their previous failed attempt had been before tonight's show when on arriving, albeit late, Jane had been pushed past the waiting crowd who were there to wish her well.

The size of this crowd?

4! What would it have taken 60 seconds?

Anyway time had moved on and now we had a massive crowd waiting for Jane. Well I exaggerate a touch.

About a dozen people including a man accompanying a disabled lady in a wheelchair. A group of about 5 who see Jane everywhere - they had travelled 220+ miles from Yorkshire and only wanted to say hello, so no autographs or photos there and a few other people.

We were almost optimistic when after about 30 minutes Jane's best friend and backing singer, Sue Ravey, poked her head out the door. She was asked for an autograph and the gentleman, who has mental health problems, was told to wait as she would be out with Jane and would do it then.

Sue claimed to be looking for somebody but, on reflection, I think she was assessing the size of the "crowd".

The wait went on for another half an hour during which time a couple of people gave up.

And finally they emerged.... secretly out of the stage loading door and straight into a people carrier. As had been forewarned these people who now surround Jane aren't all that user friendly and now seem to keep somebody who used to be a real people person at more than an arm's length away.

To be honest I'm not too fussed about artists who can't be bothered to meet people - it happens - and they are under no obligation to meet anybody.

What me off here was the deception involved. Why lie to such a small number of people that they would be coming from the stage door? Why did they leave these people for an hour knowing that they couldn't give a stuff how long they were standing there? Disabled people, people with mental health problems, people who have driven hundreds of miles to be here. Yes they had to drive to another venue but there are better ways of dealing with these things.

If signing is an inconvenience then why not do what Boy George does? Sign loads of programmes and photos on the journey down and sell them for a couple of quid more than usual. The audience member gets his/her autograph and there's extra dosh for the artist at the same time.

Why not be honest and get the on-duty stage door officer to come out immediately and say "I'm sorry but don't stand here waiting for an hour in the cold as Jane will be leaving from a side door as she doesn't have time to meet anybody anymore."?

At least we went last night with an inkling that a lot of changed on the Jane McDonald public relations front. Others who had waited weren't prepared for this and more than a few harsh words were delivered as the people carrier left.

Jane had started the second half of the show adorned in her black "chicken feathers" stating that she just "adored being the diva!"

The sad thing is I preferred her as the down-to-earth, easy to speak to, Yorkshire lass she once was.

I sense JMD concerts may be mothballed again for a few years as I feel this is letting down the very people who have been behind her since the early days in her amazing career.
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  1. I have been to two Jane Mcdonald concerts and each night i was absolutely blown away by her. she is simply amazing and i cannot wait for her next tours. Each time after the concert me and my friend waited to see her by the stage door. we waited approximately 30 mins and both times she came over to speak to us, she hugged us and we got a photo with her. she was so down to earth and just lovely! The sheer amount of tour dates that she had this year was phenomenal, she was ill both times we saw her but she still made the effort to come and meet us, even when there were winds of 70mph in Southport. She must have been so tired performing her show and all she probably wanted to do was get home to bed and ed! maybe you caught her on a bad day? I found her dialogue in between songs, hilarious, i could have listened to her all night, even though i had heard it before! But i would definately suggest going to see her again, she is amazing. But everyone does have their own opinions :)

  2. Having met Jane 23 times now I think you are wrong, she doesn't DO public signings in the foyer anymore BECAUSE she needs to get home. Have you taken into consideration what time the show ends and how far she is from home? Yes, she does go home after a concert not to a hotel. Jane had helped me in so many ways.. she has given me advice and hope in my life. Tell me if fame has changed her why on earth would she write this too me? "To my darling ___ you are like a RAY of sunshine everytime I see you, you are a lovely lovely person and I love you very much, lots of love always, Jane McDonald" Why on earth would she write that if she didn't care for fans and if she didn't have time for them anymore?
    MOST of them 23 times have been at the stage door and the last time I saw her at stage door was in Southampton where there must have been about 80 people waiting for her and she spent individual time with them it ending at 1am. That's 80 out of about 1000 in a theater right? Imagine what time she would be done IF she still did the signings? NOW, she holds Meet and Greets for fan club members and they are held in hotels where you get to chat with Jane personally and share the experience with fan club members it makes it easier for Jane that way. She always makes sure we know how much she loves us and she hugged me 4 times and kissed my ear and told me she would miss me and I told her I'd miss her but she told me that she would ever only be a thought away
    Now tell me if she had changed then why would she do all of this? She could just have easily just signed my stuff and went home without saying anything or being as nice and time giving as she usually is.
    Sometimes she does that but not all the time, you can't EXPECT her too wait all the time. After a long 2 hour show she puts on for all of us..
    N/one/ has too meet Jane after ward and even Jane gets tired, come into the real world.
    OH! Also if she was so STUCK UP as you are making out she is then why on earth would she go and make a valiant effort for her local people? raising over 45,000 for her local hospice in the last 2 months and even loosing a couple of thousand herself just so the hospice could have the money.
    Sorry if I seem a little pissed off but when I was reading this I started off with a smile and then got angry I am a loyal fan of Jane's and I will put anyone straight when they make her out to be something she is not!


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