Friday, 27 May 2011

Julian Smith Assembly Hall Theatre Tunbridge Wells

Julian Smith
Assembly Hall Theatre
Tunbridge Wells

27th May 2011

No the Assembly Hall Theatre was nowhere near capacity but these days it's somewhat par for the course and not a reflection on the quality of the artist.

It was only 6 months ago that Julian Smith supported the Stylistics on their tour (review here) yet here he is in his own solo show. He performs for both halves of the production.

Although it's a solo tour Julian does have some superb band members giving him instrumental and vocal accompaniment on many of the tracks.

Geoff Ockenden is on bass whilst on keys and vocals is Martin Trotman. Julian has had drummer problems having recently lost his regular player. However at Tunbridge Wells he was lucky enough to have a well known, world class, drummer assisting him, the one and only Sticky Wicket.

Saxy Julian Smith at Assembly hall theatre Tunbridge Wells
Julian was, as always, phenomenal. There are few single instrument specialists I can imagine wanting to see perform in their own show. It needs something more than a gifted player to hold the attention for 90-120 minutes.

Whatever is required though Julian Smith has it in bucketloads. I think it helps that the Saxophone is such a beautiful, clean, even relaxing sounding instrument. His musical genres fit well, mainly themed around classical and jazz. However, for variety, he's not averse to deviating from these by tackling modern tracks such as George Michael's Careless Whisper. I should add that Martin Trotman's vocals on this track were excellent helped considerably by the fact he didn't try to be a George Michael impersonator, instead giving it his personal touch.

Julian remains the quietly spoken, charming, guy we all 'met' on Britain's Got Talent back in 2009. You may remember that Julian finished 3rd in the final only being beaten by Diversity and Susan Boyle. I think it's an incredible achievement for any musician to get that far in the competition.

Fame hasn't changed him though. He is still down to earth and is very humbled that many of the people going to his concerts are doing so on the strength of hearing just a couple of tracks on BGT.

Many of those who have heard more of his music are going to his concerts for a second or 3rd time. It is also clear he has begun to build up a core of very loyal fans who travel as far as they can to see him perform.

Julian may be one of the more quietly spoken artists but it doesn't stop him having more audience interaction than artists who have been around for much, much longer. The question and answers sessions worked incredibly well at Tunbridge Wells. In fact the clip you see below was the unscheduled result of one such question posed to Julian.

He's also as cool as a cucumber when things don't quite go according to plan. At this show there was a technical issue that needed sorting out. Julian swiftly moved on to something else while it was rectified. He also remained apparently unfazed when the drummer went missing in the second half.

Yes that was something a little different. I've grown used to the occasional audience member failing to return after the interval but it's rare to see a performer go AWOL.

But Julian Smith didn't worry. No after asking the audience if they'd seen the drummer he Geoff and Martin performed one track without him. He then brought forward one of the Q&A sessions. Then, as if nothing had happened and to huge applause, Sticky Wicket wandered back on the stage with a bongo and what looked like a mug of tea. One of those wonderful  unforgettable theatrical moments that makes live theatre special.

Mr Smith also achieved something I have only ever seen Chas and Dave manage before. That is to have virtually ALL the members of the audience stay behind to buy CDs and other merchandise for signing. Yes the man who has made beanie hats his trademark shifted plenty of them in addition to personal pictures and, of course, CDs. Yes albums like his Christmas Songs and Lullabies, Somewhere and Ibiza Summer Sax were flying off the shelves table. I'm pleased to admit that we added two of those three albums to our collection on the night and the 3rd has been an iTunes purchase

That must be so rewarding for a performer. That you have the talent to impress so many people on the strength of one show that they have the confidence to buy your material.

An outstanding musical talent and I hope Julian tours down south again very soon.

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