Friday, May 27, 2011

Michael Ball
The Heroes Tour-(Opening Night)
Grand Canal Theatre Dublin
24 May 2011

Michael Ball made his name initially through his association with a string of successful West End shows and as the principal male lead in a succession of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. His outstanding performance in the now legendary Cameron Mackintosh production of ‘Les Miserables’ made him a major star and established him as one of the major vocal talents of modern British entertainment. His versatility coupled with clever marketing and intelligent personal management has given him a superstar career his West End contemporaries can only dream about. Not generally acknowledged are his steady and consistent album sales and album chart success over the past 20 years. He has sold literally millions of albums principally in the UK & Ireland in recent years. He has also enjoyed a parallel career as a successful live artist selling out numerous concert tours through his huge and fiercely loyal fan base. That same fan base are fascinated with a star equally at home on the West End stage and the concert halls of Europe and a canny media operator who regularly pops up on TV or Radio shows and in the UK album charts with most of his recent recordings. Few performers can offer such a diverse range of options to their fans who cant seem to get enough of their idol. In short the man is a one man multi media star.

His latest ‘Heroes’ tour, named from his most recent album of the same name in which he explores the songs of his own musical inspirations, enjoyed its first night premiere before a sell out crowd at Dublin’s beautiful Grand Canal Theatre on 24 May. He had already enjoyed a sell out run at the same venue in 2010 in the Musical ‘Hairspray’ and had chosen the venue personally to premiere his new concert tour. Musing on the night about his varied career, Michael revealed that his next role will be as a serial killer in a new production of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Sweeney Todd’ with the involvement of Sondheim himself. Versatility is clearly the key to the singers continuing success. Observing the diverse range and ages of fans attending the show demonstrates that Michael Ball has been very clever indeed at carving out a unique career for himself in an era when performers of his type have struggled and mostly failed to connect with a long term fan base. Recognising that West End success alone was no longer a guarantee of longevity, he diversified into television, radio and recording and of course live concert performances. As a result he has enjoyed a wider and more diverse fan base than his contemporaries which enables him to have a proper real singing career instead of being pigeonholed as just a star of West End musicals. Troubled by occasional weight problems during recent years, the 2011 Michael is looking leaner than before and seems to have regained his distinctive cherubic good looks which helped make him a sex symbol in the late eighties and early nineties.

The new ‘Heroes’ concert had some initial teething problems on its Dublin opening night. The first set showcasing a pseudo rock star Michael with a cool (high octave) talented quintet of backing singers while interesting and at times original had some of his older fans moving a little uncomfortably in their seats. His knock out set of New York themed songs in which Ball seemed willing to share the stage equally with his vocal troupe was a major crowd pleaser and a definite highlight. Those who felt they were perhaps not getting quite what they had paid for i.e. songs from his West End shows, were catered for admirably in the second part of the show when Ball delivered a rousing set from Les Miserables and Sunset Boulevard, the latter containing some of Lloyd Webber’s most interesting and often underrated work. His rendition of the title song from Sunset remains one of Michael Ball’s best vocal recordings and a fantastic showcase for his powerful voice.

Michael Ball has slowly and steadily built a significant and varied career for himself over the past 20 years or so and can now claim to be one of the UK’s most successful entertainers. The secret to his success is simple. Yes there are others who perhaps match his talent but very few who can match either his huge energy or infectious self belief. Be warned, if you are tired or a little depressed with the state of the world around you, Michael Ball will put you through a range of emotions when attending one of his concerts. His sheer enthusiasm can be irritating at times but eventually he will seduce you through the sheer effort he puts in and his obvious professionalism. Michael Ball’s Heroes tour continues throughout the UK in May and June 2011.

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