The majority (well, at least it feels that way) of musical theatre performers seem to be doing something or other online. It is quite impossible to keep up with the sheer amount of content being pumped up at the time of writing (three weeks after a UK-wide lockdown began because of Covid-19) – arguably, the singer James Blunt said it best when he tweeted on 25 March 2020, “During lockdown, while many other artists are doing mini-concerts from their homes, I thought I’d you all a favour and not.” Stories abound, too, of streamed shows that people have paid for which then fail to stream or whose connection is severed part-way through due to sheer volume of web traffic.
Sharon Sexton and Rob Fowler seem to be more than aware of all this, and though they may be a little late to the party (of online content), it is with good reason. They have, in their own way and in their own time, spliced together over an hour of high-quality video footage. There are a few bits from the archives but most of it is fresh, with plenty of shots of them singing away in their front room, or otherwise outdoor images of the English countryside (Lincolnshire, to be more precise).
I counted fifteen numbers, which range from the emotionally charged to the utterly exuberant – variety, after all, is the spice of life, and in this broad selection, itself a combination of self-penned words and music and cover versions of songs written by others, lies something for almost everyone. There’s some nifty camera work to be enjoyed, too, in amongst the singing, as well as some interesting commentary – admittedly this will become somewhat less interesting on second (and subsequent) viewing, but the context in which the songs are placed is good to hear about, and is the sort of thing that one might expect if we’d been sat in The Crazy Coqs in London or some other suitable venue hearing these tunes in concert.
For instance, if the first few songs seem very laid back, it is because a good number of them were written whilst the pair were on holiday! I suppose songs are better written, if they are to be written at all, during a bit of downtime rather than when one is performing eight shows a week. I rather liked the mix of tunes regulars like yours truly have heard several times before with ones that perhaps haven’t had quite so much exposure, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll get to about the sixth song in and realise that while these songs are wonderful to hear, they aren’t exactly showtunes. I won’t give everything away here but let’s just say that if it’s showtunes that you are after, your patience shall be rewarded.
The harmonies are quite brilliant, with the tunes perfectly pitched, with verve and strength when needed (and subtlety in other places), but never overpowering. Some choices of expression in the lyrics made me smile – it’s an interesting idea, for instance, in ‘Delight’, to drink until one is sober (as opposed to drinking to get drunk). The art of storytelling through song is very much abound in this charming 67 minutes of musical and lyrical excellence.
‘Grounded – The Living Room Concert’ is available for £10 via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org, or otherwise use that email address to request alternative payment methods.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.