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Gary Bland: Love & Hindsight

| November 29, 2016

Gary Bland

Love & Hindsight

The Crazy Coqs, London, U.K., November 22, 2016

Reviewed by Thanasis Kalantzis for Cabaret Scenes

Gay Bland

Gay Bland

The other night we went to the iconic Crazy Coqs to catch the new show of Gary Bland, a promising upcoming cabaret singer. From the very beginning he professed that he came into the business at the tender age of 51, just a few years ago, but he intends to stay—and he should. He has a lot to offer.

He kick started with “At the Crossroads” (Dr. Dolittle), giving us some really wonderful notes, especially toward the end, and made me feel very excited about what was to come.  He continued with a unique rendition of the lovely “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” (Bye Bye Birdie) delivered with ease and confidence that rolled beautifully into “Pretty Women” (Sweeney Todd), in which he really transmitted some personal feelings, while his pianist, Jamie Safiruddin, excelled in an amazing solo.

A nice swing of “Almost Like Being in Love” (Brigadoon) followed. “The Song is You” (Music in the Air) was a great slow arrangement that excellently escalated to the dreamy higher notes. Another slow ballad, Jerry Stevens’ “Give a Fool a Chance” paired well with “I’ll Only Miss Her When I Think of Her.”

He picked up the pace with Cole Porter’s “At Long Last Love”—a warm welcome after the last three heavy-duty ballads—and continued with a heartfelt “Where Do You Start?,” which he interwove with a gloomy story (unnecessarily detailed) from an accident that nearly killed him; subsequently, his fiancée at the time abandoned him. The story, as intended, raised the obligatory “ahhs” and “ohhs” from the audience.

In his second set he gave us such lovely swing numbers as “A Foggy Day (in London Town)” and “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” and a superb arrangement of “On the Street Where You Live” (My Fair Lady) which showcased his tenor abilities and gave his pianist a chance for another great solo. He hit some great notes on a fast-paced “Once in a Lifetime” and confessed his love for his wife through an exquisite version of “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me.” I particularly liked his rendition of “I Could Write a Book” that came straight from his heart, while his “Love Isn’t Just for the Young” rolled effortlessly into “Young at Heart.” 

He wrapped up the show with the meaningful and mellow “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” and closed with “A Wonderful Day Like Today,” just to remind us of his solid crooner abilities.

There were times, especially during the first set, when many ballads were crammed together—a good thing for every performer to show off his chops, but maybe a bit too much for an audience gasping for a breather.  Also, his chat was in need of some more careful artistic setting-up and good polishing—the many details about lovers past were needless and long-winded. Maybe advice from a director could have helped him spread out his repertoire more wisely and better frame the songs within the chat, but also, on a practical level, help him conduct the performance within the time restrictions given by the venue, since, during the last 15 minutes of the show, the performer was running against the clock.   

It is really worth wondering why Bland came into the business so late, but he is a shining illustration of the good old saying that “it’s never too late….” His voice, rich in texture, can croon all the way from the sweet and mellow to the grand and striking. Furthermore, his stage presence falls in between the cute boy-man and the guy next door, appealing to a wide variety of audiences. Not only he can sing, but he can tell a story and instinctively connect with his audience.  A thoroughly enjoyable night out.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, London, London Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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