Evening of PURE Delight
A review of the Llandudno concert of the UK leg
The Pure Tour 2004.
I had been privileged to see Hayley perform live four times
- and to meet her on each occasion. One thing which continues
to impress is that, each time, it just kept getting better.
After the Royal Albert Hall event on December 12th last year,
it was impossible to imagine how such a trend could be continued.
But, it just did.
in Llandudno was amazing to say the least. Hayley was backed
by an eight-piece band comprising percussion, guitar, 2 violins,
viola, cello, double bass and keyboards. Every single one of
them was a top-class musician and gave the concert a great deal
in the excellence of their playing. I will give a full list
at the end of this review.
Wales Theatre was to be full to capacity, and people began arriving
around 5:45 pm - a full one and three quarter hours before the
performance was due to start. As more people arrived, a buzz
of eager anticipation slowly built up. Something I had never
seen before was the tendency of people to not just sit in their
own little groups, but to actually strike up conversations with
others. What was the subject of conversation in many cases?
Why, Hayley, of course. Everyone was looking forward to the
concert almost with a feeling of excitement. They were not to
be disappointed. Hayley, as usual, lifted herself up another
level to give more - and better - than I have seen her do so
far in other performances. She does this every time, so there
is definitely a consistent trend. How she does it, I don't know.
But, I have commented before on Hayley's apparent endless ability
to improve on perfection.
more, there were to be some surprises which I, for one, found
made the whole experience just that much more memorable. More
about that later.
was due to begin at 7:30pm. A minute or two before that, I decided
that I would have a look around the auditorium. There was not
a single empty seat. I have been to other concerts in the past,
which were sold out performances, only to find that a number
of seats remained empty because some people failed to turn up
for one reason or another. This was not the case in Llandudno
- every seat was occupied. No one had failed to turn up. The
start was a couple of minutes late and I noticed that, again
unusually, the audience began to fall silent of their own accord
just before the actual start - they were clearly intent on not
missing a moment. The musicians had taken their places. Then,
Hayley came on stage to a hearty round of applause.
any fuss, she launched into her first number - what has become
her signature tune - "Pokarekare Ana". At the back
of the stage was a large screen and, as Hayley began to sing,
we were treated to a scene of flying through fluffy white clouds.
Overlaid on this, changing periodically, was Maori text (not
a translation of the song) with the English translation. Each
was almost like a proverb, showing the real beauty of Maori
culture. I found it difficult to look at the screen as my eyes
were drawn back to Hayley and I found myself wallowing blissfully
in the all-encompassing beauty of her voice. Never have I known
that song to appear so short, it seemed to be over in an instant.
And the audience loved it. That was obvious by the enthusiasm
of their applause.
to wait until the applause was over before she could speak.
While she waited, she had the most gorgeous smile of delight
on her face. Eventually, the audience settled back ready for
what was to come.
Croeso." Said Hayley. That is "Thank you very much.
Welcome," for the non-Welsh speakers who read this. This
meant that Hayley had to stand and wait again. The audience
went wild at being greeted in what is, for many of them, their
native language. Clearly, they were impressed that Hayley should
take the trouble to learn how to greet them in their own language
and showed their approval and pleasure in no restrained terms.
Periodically, throughout the evening, she would thank them again
introduced her second song, which was to be "River of Dreams".
The rear projection scene this time was to be of colourful fish
swimming in a river, interspersed with water flowing over and
between boulders. While Hayley was singing, there was not a
sound from the audience - not even the clearing of a throat.
Things were beginning to warm up now. When Hayley finished singing,
the audience showed their approval with a more enthusiastic
round of applause that before. The people gathered to witness
this spectacle were giving their all, in return for Hayley doing
Now it was
time for her third offering, which was "Beat of Your Heart".
A truly beautiful song written for Hayley by Sir George Martin
and his son Giles, both of whom had worked on the production
of the album PURE. Once again, rapturous applause was offered
up by the audience.
the point at which Hayley introduced Katherine Jenkins, the
Welsh mezzo-soprano, who will appear in all the concerts in
hayley's UK tour. Now, I'm not one who particularly likes mezzo-sopranos
but, it is only fair to say that Katherine is excellent. A beautiful
young woman, with a beautiful voice. I cannot remember the title
of the first song she sang, only that it was foreign (typical
English comment) but, it set the standard for Katherine's part
in the proceedings. It was excellent and full of expression.
Her second song was "The Ash Grove", a Welsh song
which, unfortunately, I cannot remember the Welsh title of.
introduced Hayley again and, this time, the welcome given to
her was definitely more enthusiastic than at the beginning of
the concert. Hayley's next song was "Dark Waltz".
When this is sung live, it just has so much more impact than
on the CD. The rear projection was of close-up shots of people's
hands, unusual and yet seemed just right for the event. It was
a fantastic version, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all present.
Once again, the appreciation of the audience was a delight to
again and, this is where my heart melted. "I would like
to introduce my gorgeous sister, Sophie," she said. There
was more enthusiastic applause from the audience, even though
they did not know quite what a treat they were really in for.
The song they sang together was "Panis Angelicus".
If the sound of one Westenra singing could send me to paradise
on the wings of ecstasy this, my first experience of seeing
Sophie perform live, took me to a far better place than that.
I have no words to describe how beautiful it was. Enough to
say that I had to wipe away more than one tear of pure pleasure
during the performance - just as now when, through writing this,
I think back to that glorious experience. Sophie's voice is
absolutely beautiful, her ability is astounding, and her stage
presence is awesome. In fact, it was like watching two Hayley's.
After hearing Sophie sing on two of the tracks on My Gift To
You, I knew she was good. But, I had no idea just how good she
is. I do now. I just wish I could express myself better when
describing the experience. The audience nearly went ballistic
with their applause. Just as the applause was starting to die
down, Sophie left the stage and the volume of the applause built
right back up. They absolutely loved her - and quite right too.
This duet MUST be recorded for all to enjoy.
were in for another surprise as Hayley introduced her next guest.
It was Brandon Pou. This young man is yet another exceptionally
gifted performer, maintaining the extremely high standard already
exhibited by those who had gone before. Together, they sang
"All I Ask Of You" from Phantom of the Opera. This
is a reprise from Hayley's eponymous album and, although that
was recorded almost three years ago, and Hayley's voice has
matured a lot since then, she showed with no difficulty that
she could still hit the high notes. It was a beautifully executed
number, performed by two great entertainers. Every moment was
a delight to the ears. And the audience showed their approval
in no short measure.
us to a twenty-minute interval. And, I can tell you I needed
it, my hands were smarting from all the applause.
half opened with the band playing a piece, which was not announced
- so I have no idea what it was. Just that it was thoroughly
enjoyable and was an opportunity for the musicians to show that
they were, each and every one, accomplished in their own right.
to the stage accompanied by the expected applause of the audience
(well, expected by me anyway). This song was "Who Painted
The Moon Black". The rear projection this time was of the
moon, moving across the screen in various directions - close-ups
and longer shots. The backdrop around the screen was lit up
like a starry sky. This really added to the mood of the song
beautifully. The audience reaction was getting better all the
song offered for the delectation of those gathered was "Never
Say Goodbye". Once again, delivered to absolute perfection
and received so well.
It was now
time for Katherine to return to the stage to warm applause from
the audience. During this part, she gave us three songs. The
first was a Welsh song which, yet again, I have forgotten the
title of. Second came a song called "This Is For You".
Well, that's the English title anyway. Before singing it, as
it was Mother's Day, she dedicated it to her mother, who has
never yet missed one of Katherine's performances. Her last song
in this part was "Habanera", which she gave an absolutely
stunning performance of. One thing she managed to tell us was,
all her songs in the concert come from her debut album, 'Premiere',
which is now to be released on April 5th (instead of April 19th).
back on and, like mine, I bet there were quite a few people
whose hands were stinging somewhat. Hayley now sang "Mary
Did You Know?" At was so beautifully done and so moving.
Far superior to any recording. At this point, Hayley left the
stage again to extended rapturous applause. On to the stage
came Sophie, this time, her entrance was greeted very enthusiastically.
After two attempts to speak, the audience quietened down sufficiently
for Sophie to say, "I would like to introduce my little
brother, Isaac." I think by now people knew that they were
in for yet another treat and the evening's events were going
to go up yet another notch. They were not wrong. Sophie and
Isaac sang "Greensleeves". They sang it in unison,
in close harmony and then in answer to each other. Here we go
again - Isaac has a fantastic voice. Far better than could be
expected from one of his age. Tear wiping was necessary again.
The audience was getting more appreciative as every song went
by. And now, we had had the greatest experience I think it is
ever possible to have. We had been privileged to witness the
highest quality entertainment possible, from three members of
the same family. If Isaac does not record his voice in the reasonably
near future, there will be no justice in this world. A voice
like that, given a little more time, should be recorded for
posterity, and to share with the world. The last time I heard
anyone say that, it was about Aled Jones all those years ago.
finished singing, they were given their just reward of a superb
and unrestrained round of applause. Now the audience loved Isaac,
too. Isaac left the stage, and Sophie moved off to the right
hand side of the guitarist, but remained on stage. Hayley came
back on and 1500 pairs of suffering hands were put mercilessly
to work again. The next song was introduced by Hayley as follows.
"The next song was written by Sarah Class while we were
working in the studio. It is 'Across The Universe Of Time'."
This is another song which is an absolute delight to listen
to on the CD, but which takes on a whole new dimension when
heard live. And then, we discovered the reason Sophie had remained
on stage. She joined in the refrain, taking the song to even
soon, it was time for the last song of the concert. Hayley began
singing "Hine e Hine" and, as she sang, Brandon came
back on stage. As Hayley paused, he took up the song. Then they
were singing together. From either side, they were joined first
by Katherine, then by Sophie and, finally, by Isaac and they
all sang together. Before the end, they stopped singing, took
their bows to thunderous applause and Hayley thanked the audience.
Although I was sitting directly in front of her in the very
front row, I could only just make out her voice. Excuse me,
time to wipe away another tear or two. Turning, they left the
stage, waving to the audience. The volume of the applause went
up another notch. My hands were now hurting, I don't know about
anyone else, but I didn't care. When Hayley, Brandon, Katherine,
Sophie and Isaac had left the stage, there was no sign that
the applause was going to let up. It was encore time.
back on stage and the applause went up yet another notch. When
they quietened down, Hayley launched into a fabulous rendition
of "Amazing Grace". More punishment of hands followed.
Next, she was joined by Katherine and Brandon and they sang
"Ave Maria". The three of them producing a sound that
can only be likened to a heavenly host. Even more punishment
of hands. Mine were beginning to go numb. Everyone left the
stage, but the audience were not having any of it. They wanted
more. They got it with what could only be described as the very
best of the night. We were treated to a rendition of "Wuthering
Heights" which was absolutely inspired. Clearly, I was
not the only one who thought so. At this stage, the audience
produced a round of applause that topped anything which had
gone before. This had really finished the evening off on a high.
The applause wouldn't stop. Hayley brought everyone back on
stage, and she brought the musicians forward to join her in
a line to take their bows. Whilst this was going on, two bouquets
of flowers were brought on. One for Katherine and one for Hayley.
Up went the volume of applause again, and more bows followed.
The applause did not start to die down until well after the
stage was empty, and then only because they couldn't clap any
more, I think.
What a night!
That was, by a long way, the best yet. And it wasn't quite over.
I went round to the stage door, people following close behind
as I showed then where it was. There were that many people there,
it took about an hour to get them in through the doors to see
Hayley and family, and to get their autographs. I received another
hug from Hayley and Steve, her manager, took a photograph of
me with Hayley, Sophie and Isaac. This is something I will cherish
for the rest of my life as a memento of probably the greatest
experience yet. And I have it all to go through again in Cardiff
- I can't wait.
Hayley. Thank you Sophie. Thank you Isaac. And a very special
thank you to Gerald and Jill.
go to the members of an excellent band:
Steve Hussey - Violin
Nina Cockburn - Viola
Katherine Jenkinson - Cello
Mark Cox - Guitars
Phil Donkin - Double Bass and Electric Bass
Gwilym Simcock - Piano and Keyboards
Mike Kruk - Drums and Percussion
23rd March, 2004.