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Review: Books, Theatre, Movies, Albums & Gigs.

Kerry Ellis & Brian May

The Anthems Tour

Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

May 3, 2011

 
Kerry Ellis and Brian May live in concert Liverpool 2011

It’s a rare thing when an artist auditions for a part in a major West End musical in front of Brian May, Roger Taylor and Ben Elton and comes away with, not only a part, but a part especially created for her. That’s what happened to Kerry Ellis way back in 2002 and, since first appearing as Meat Loaf in We Will Rock You, her stage career has gone from strength-to-strength in shows such as Wicked, Oliver, Chess and Miss Saigon.

But musical theatre, demanding as it is, is one thing. Performing a Rock-heavy set for two hours alongside a Rock legend who has just Produced your debut album is quite another. Yet we needn’t have feared because Kerry Ellis certainly has what it takes to catapult her career into the stratosphere.

 

This was two hours of unequivocal magic, with Ellis’ voice powering through the opening track of Anthems, Dangerland, until such time as Brian May set his own seal on the song with some quite mystifyingly magnificent chords from the Red Special that sent the sell out audience – already afire with anticipation – into apoplexy at the very first note.

With enough smoke to cause the Liverpool Fire Service onto high alert, and lights that burned as bright as the performances – not least of which coming from Roger’s son Rufus Taylor on drums and Pete Murray on keyboards and synths –as the set powered on through the beautiful I’m Not That Girl, I Can’t Be Your Friend and the Don Black masterpiece that has been so elegantly rearranged, Diamonds Are Forever, all of which appear on the breathtaking album.

However, highlight number one of the night was definitely all about Brian May, as his hit Somebody To Love was given its first complete live airing since 1982 and, quite simply, had the audience on its feet. If anybody doubted before that Kerry Ellis has a voice then they must now be eating fistfuls of Humble Pie. This wasn’t just a cover version. This was a whole new rendition of one of THE greatest tracks of all time and, deservedly, brought the just response from those there to witness it.

Kerry and Brian on stage

Not satisfied with that, may then threw his trusty axe into the relaxed opening of his guitar solo, Blue Bayou, before ripping seamlessly into Brighton Rock, then back again with such unadulterated finesse it is hard to believe that the man is a Doctor of Astronomy, Chancellor of a University and, lest we forget, 64, such is the power and sheer enthusiasm he still shows for being onstage.

Taking a stool in the middle of the stage, those who have followed May’s career know what’s coming and Love Of My Life is given the full acoustic treatment, before Ellis closes the song out quite magnificently before launching into I Loved A Butterfly, a cover from the Queen album,  Cosmos Rocks, and a quite sublime version of Save Me, and the Freddie Mercury lament, One By One (Only The Good Die Young), all of which have the audience going mad once again.

Then it’s fun time, as Ellis skips around the stage with youthful vigour, chirpily calling on The Feeling’s hit single, I Love It When You Call, before returning  to Queen to close the show proper with that band’s two greatest anthems, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions.

Of course it isn’t long before they’re all back out onstage again. This time dressed in what appears to another addition to and endless array of costumes, to perform Anthem from the musical Chess. Although designed for a male baritone, Ellis simply makes mincemeat of such things and rips through the song as a knife through butter and so gives the song its own distinct edginess and fervour. That’s always been the quality of Queen and Brian May. They recognise that melody is paramount and that putting the right voice with right song is key to everything musical.

Kerry Ellis performing live

When Defying Gravity from Wicked lifts the roof once again and the band take their bows, it is easy to believe that that’s that. Not so because, judging by the look on hers and May’s faces, even they are stunned by the response of the audience and so deliver one final coup de grace with Tie Your Mother Down tearing into the eardrums of the assembled with unabashed glee.

At the end of her cover notes, Kerry Ellis thanked Brian May for believing in her and for “seeing something in me”. The old man’s still got it, make no mistake, and the young girl he has taken under his wing is deserving of her chance in the sunshine and long may it continue because, without question, she has one hell of a voice and this is one hell of a gig to go to.

Chris High


www.kerryellis.co.uk  www.brianmay.com

  • 3 May 2011 - Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (0151 709 3789)
  • 5 May 2011 - Gateshead The Sage (0191 443 4661)
  • 6 May 2011 - Sheffield City Hall (01142 789 789)
  • 8 May 2011 - Nottingham Royal Centre (0115 989 5555)
  • 9 May 2011 - Birmingham Symphony Hall (0121 780 3333)
  • 11 May 2011 - Edinburgh Festival Theatre (0131 529 6000)
  • 12 May 2011 - Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (0141 353 8000)
  • 14 May 2011 - Cardiff St David's Hall (02920 878 444)
  • 16 May 2011 - Manchester Bridgewater Hall (0161 907 9000)
  • 18 May 2011 - Milton Keynes Theatre (0844 871 7652)
  • 19 May 2011 - Southend Cliffs Pavilion (01702 351135)
  • 21 May 2011 - Bath Forum (01225 463362)
  • July 16th 2011  RAF Cranwell Sleaford, Lincolnshire, NG34 8HB  (0844 888 9991)

 

 


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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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