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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 
DAVID ESSEX Shepherds Bush Empire, London, November 19th 2006
Be honest, we all get conceited, a little bit self-satisfied, just slightly “how bloody clever am I” from time to time. I mean, take tonight for example. Who, apart from Whiskyfun’s pair of irony-laden rock-reviewers would be so crazy as to spend Saturday night at the Brixton Academy with Motorhead, and Sunday at the Bush with seventies poster-boy David Essex? Are we cool or what? Well as it turned out the very nice lady sitting along from the photographer had done just that, without a trace of our super-smug irony. Frankly she put us to shame. “Where was you? No I never stand there – Brian May’s hair always gets in the way – he’s always there to see Lemmy, a big fan, I was at the front with my pals, we never miss ’em”.
We fall into an astonishingly well-informed discussion on the merits of various venues in the Metropolis, and I start to get the uncomfortable feeling that this girl goes to more gigs than we do – is that possible? Having trashed Wembley Arena we move on to Earl’s Court – which we have studiously avoided in the past – “No you should go – it’s great – not a bad seat in the house. What – you didn’t get tickets for Iron Maiden?” – her eyes are almost on fire and her voice high with excitement “I mean Lemmy’s good, but that’s really what I call rock and roll”. Sometimes, as Vivian Stanshall once said, you just can’t win.
David Essex
David Essex at the Bush
November 19th 2006
Mention David Essex to most people and they start singing the chorus to his 1975 number one hit ‘Hold me close’, usually in an exaggerated mockney. Of course his career was, and is, much bigger than that. His is the classic story of the East London boy (where did you think that surname came from) with smouldering good looks made good. From his Romany roots (until his recent move to the United States he was Patron of the National Gypsy Council) Essex came to fame through his lead role (as Jesus that is) in the musical Godspell, a sort of Jesus Christ Superstar me-too. Parallel acting and musical careers developed, with film roles in the (still very watchable) rite-of-passage movie, That’ll be the Day (with a surprisingly accomplished Ringo Starr), Stardust (also worth a watch on a wet Sunday afternoon) and Silver Stream Racer (forget it).
There were musicals such as Evita (his recording of ‘Oh what a circus’ is still one of the best) and in 1985 the self-penned West End hit Mutiny, when he cast himself as Fletcher Christian. He had singing and speaking parts in Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds (you may remember he was cursed with these optimistic lines on the reconstruction of earth’s civilisation: “We'll build villages and towns and... and...we'll play each other at cricket!” – to which the Martians replied “Ulla ulla”), and of course a succession of chart hits starting with his own composition, ‘Rock on’. He was on every teenage girl’s wall and in many of their hearts (and in many of their pants if his candid and bestselling autobiography A Charmed Life is anything to go by). And tonight many of them (the girls, not the pants) are here to pay homage. You can count the blokes in the audience on your fingers and toes. I’m surrounded.
David Essex
In Mr Essex’s defence let me make it very clear that this was no botched together greatest hits show for fawning admirers. From what I can gather he’s never stopped writing, recording and performing – he’s just done a spell in the West End musical Footloose, he’s writing a new musical which he hopes to stage next year, and he’s got a new album out, Beautiful Day. And it was much to his credit that about half of the evening’s songs came from this, 2004’s It’s Going to be All Right, and 2001’s Wonderful. Time may have caught up with Essex – he’s lost the gorgeous flowing locks – but he’s retained his cheeky boyish grin, the eyes can still smoulder, and his voice is effortlessly effective. To be honest although it’s nice enough, much of the new material seems to be over theatrical, but I guess that’s only to be expected. As for the old stuff, well generally it’s aged pretty well (except the stupid one about the motorbike, of which Serge, Mr Essex is, or was, an avid collector). The audience love every minute of it, and despite our seats (a rare privilege in the stalls at the Bush) everyone’s up dancing from the start, the ladies crowding round the edge of the stage. Essex’s band is excellent and naturally enough the place explodes into uproar with final number – ‘Hold me close’ – even the Photographer was singing.
So not quite the Lemster, and certainly not, we agreed with our new friend, Bruce Dickinson and Iron Maiden, but nonetheless a very satisfactory Sunday night out, and a huge vote of respect for Mr Essex’s perseverance with the new, rather than a cynical reliance on the past. Rock on David! - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)



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