Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Petula Clark at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

I went to see Petula Clark in concert at the venerable old Theatre Royal Drury Lane on Sunday and she was in fine form.  To me, Petula has always been around singing her heart out and she's part of the background to my childhood, hearing her on the radio and on the TV shows in the late 60s and early 70s. She's the ultimate '60s girl' to me, followed by Dusty, Lulu and the rest, but for me, Petula is No 1. I first saw her on stage in 2007 in Croydon of all places, followed by Cadogan Hall and then Drury Lane in 2013 and here we were again, three years later, at Drury Lane with a new record, 'From Now On', to promote.

Pet has been a star since before I was born and she knows how to enjoy it. The five-piece band walked on and started playing and then suddenly there she was standing at the side of the stage, hands clasped in front of her, in a sparkly frock with a red flower and the audience erupted to their feet clapping and welcoming her to the stage.  That's the welcome she deserves, particularly on the last night of her tour.

The show took the format I'm familiar with, of about an hour and then a short interval followed by another hour. She sprinkled the hits with the new songs from the new album, plus songs she just fancied singing and they were all worth hearing. To pack in more of the songs that we all wanted to hear quite a few of the hits were segued together so she started off with one blockbuster and then morphed into another. They all seem to have been re-arranged in some way for this tour that made them sound fresh while being very familiar at the same time.

Favourites on the night included 'Don't Sleep In The Subway', 'Who Am I' and 'Colour My World'. From the new record Petula introduced 'Blackbird' (by Stella McCartney's dad, as she noted), 'Sacrifice My Heart' and 'From Now On', the title song. I was delighted that she sang her two songs from 'Finian's Rainbow', her film with Fred Astaire, 'Look To The Rainbow' and 'How Are Things In Glocca Morra' - those songs whiz me back to a Sunday afternoon in the early 70s seeing the film on telly. She also did her great version of 'Crazy' and the autobiographical 'Reflections' (both from her 2013 album). The penultimate song was a big singalong of 'Downtown' - as if it could be anything else?

The songs were peppered with anecdotes and stories of tea with Charlie Chaplin, dancing with Fred Astaire, a young Jimmy Page playing on one of her studio recordings, and telling us about songs she wrote and co-wrote, particularly with Tony Hatch. It looked like she was loving every moment. There was a lot of love for Petula in that theatre.

Petula has been a star for so long it's difficult to think of anyone else at her particular level and certainly her longevity. In a few weeks time she will turn 84 (very ungallant of me to mention it) and it's wonderful to see her still commanding an audience the way she can.  I wonder if any of today's "superstars" will have any of her staying power, still performing and producing new music and still enjoying it. At the end she received another standing ovation as she picked up yellow roses from the stage, offerings from delighted fans.

Come back soon Petula.

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