S ymphony Hall is almost full tonight with a mixed age crowd — everything from 10 year olds in Queen t-shirts to men who look considerably older than Brian May. There’s a buzz of excitement in the air. But before we get to the main act, there’s Vintage Trouble.
Vintage Trouble is an American soul and rock band — Ty Taylor on lead vocals, Nalle Colt and Rick Barrio Dill on guitar and Richard Danielson on drums. They’ve been around for a year or so, one album out so far.
The three instrumentalists arrived on stage first and played a rather formless piece with more volume than interest. Dressed in what I tend to think of as steamboat gambler style, the musicians seemed to be enjoying themselves — lots of posturing going on. The audience didn’t seem very excited and I was definitely underwhelmed.
Things improved — somewhat — when the vocalist arrived. He had a good voice and a desire to communicate with the audience — but still lots of ‘look at me’ dance moves. Nonetheless, he got the audience clapping along. There was some decent guitar playing and some slightly boring drumming.
The singer thanked the audience for ‘getting into your seats early enough to groove with the guys’. The set progressed and the audience warmed up somewhat. There were obviously a few Vintage Trouble fans in the crowd.
As a band, they were, in my opinion, more interesting on the more soulful songs like ‘Nobody Told Me’ and ‘Not All Right by Me’ than on the rockier numbers. As the set went on, they tried to get the audience to respond. ‘Stand Up’. ‘Put Your Hands Up’. ‘When I Sing This, You Repeat It’. (At this point my seat partner whispered, ‘I get it, we’re playing Simon Says!) About half the audience joined in and did what they were told; half stayed resolutely in their seats.
They weren’t a bad band (although as the ex-wife of a drummer I found the Richard Danielson’s drumming style increasingly boring!), but they equally didn’t set the stadium alight.
Interval and then the main show starts. Lots of smoke and dry ice, coloured lighting effects, melodic background music. The lights come up on the seven backing musicians — 2 keyboards, drums, 2 guitars and 2 female backing singers/dancers. Brian May comes out in a kaftan-y sort of outfit and Kerry Ellis arrives in a green ankle-length dress, transparent up to her thighs, and impossibly high green high heels.
The entire show was high energy and high quality. Whoever designed it had a good sense of spectacle, and lighting was used to good effect. The rapport between Brian May and Kerry Ellis was clear from the moment they stepped on the stage — it was a clear collaboration. For much of the evening Brian May was happy to take a back seat, letting Ellis shine as the central performer, although his guitar solos held the audience spellbound.
The concert was the live performance of Ellis’s recent debut album, Anthems, produced by May. Ellis’s move from musical theatre to solo singer has been a successful one, while her acting background strengthens her ability to deliver a song. Her superb voice soared over the band effortlessly.
The house lights were turned on after every song which was a bit strange, but enabled the performers to see the audience, an audience who were loving the show. It was great to watch the sheer enjoyment on the faces. By the time they reached the fifth song — the Queen classic, ‘Somebody to Love’ — the audience leapt to their feet in the first of a series of standing ovations. Kerry looked out at the crowd, clearly delighted, and mouthed the word ‘Wow!’
The evening progressed with frequent costume changes and a mixture of Queen songs and songs from the shows — a rather odd mixture, perhaps, but one that worked tonight, held together by the sophisticated and subtle musicianship on display. The Symphony Hall was full of happy people, singing along, dancing (although sedately in their seats and not in the aisles!) and tapping their feet, and the musicians and backing singers seemed to be having an equally good time.
All in all, a solidly good show.
Kerry Ellis set list
I’m Not That Girl
I Can’t Be Your Friend
Diamonds are Forever
Somebody to Love
[Brian May guitar solo]
Love of My Life
I Loved a Butterfly
Only the Good Die Young
You Have to Be There
I Love You When You Call
We Will Rock You
We Are the Champions
Encore – Anthem
Tie Your Mother Down
Review – Betty Hagglund