Sunday night saw a large gathering at the historic Royal Albert Hall for Superjam, presented by The Sunflower Jam (http://www.thesunflowerjam.com/) and what a night this would turn out to be! Not only for the immensity of the line-up but also for the very cause we were all there to support; The Sunflower Jam which is there itself to support new research into integrated approaches for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
For those that have been to the Royal Albert Hall you will know what an apt choice it was for this event. The inside is awe inspiring and gives you a real sense of the sheer scale of the evening you are about to enjoy – that’s if the line-up wasn’t enough. On the floor in front of the stage sit tables around which are sat the great and the good who have enjoyed their dinner whilst raising money for The Sunflower Jam through bidding on the various auction items.
First up on stage to get the audience (and men) going were the Miss Kitties burlesque troop tearing up the stage to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole lotta love’ which is followed by The Temperance Movement, who played “Aint no telling” and “Only Friend”.
Margo Buchanan follows this with a brilliant acoustic version of ‘Substitute’ before introducing the house band consisting of Jerry Brown (Drums), Nick Fyffe (Bass), Micky Moody and Murray Gould on guitar, and not forgetting the legendary Brian Auger on keys – now that’s my idea of a house band! Here I am sat in a private booth with an amazing view thinking that this can’t get any better this early on surely, but oh no! This evening would prove to be as good as it gets every single minute of it as introduced next is Sandi Thom who does an absolutely fabulous cover of ‘Wheels on fire’; just brilliant both for us to watch and as she says herself for her to be on stage with so many legends. Speaking of legends, she picks up her acoustic guitar to sing a beautifully haunting version of ‘November rain’. A hard one to truly get right in my opinion, but with her voice and the surrounding landscape she manages it just fine. I can still hear it now.
But given the line up the mood would not stay low for long as Uli John Roth joins Nick Fyffe and Brian Auger to kick the tone right back up into rock mode starting with a Scorpions instrumental track, “Sails of Charon”. I’d love to tell you what else they played but I was just far too absorbed in watching them play, though if I thought that was good, on to the stage comes Alfie Boe who, I must admit, I was really looking forward to hearing live (shameful fan that I am). What a treat it was. He may be classical but damn can he belt out ‘Rock n Roll’ by Led Zeppelin – and in true appreciation gets the first standing ovation of the evening. But for me the cover of Foreigner’s ‘I want to know what love is’ would be worth the entry fee alone; that deep voice just held me captive. The next ‘act’ of Kerry Ellis and Brian May was equally captivating, starting with their another acoustic cover of ‘Born free’. An interesting choice I thought but as with each change of performer during the night, you immediately get absorbed. As befitting the song it is kept simple and pure and manages to be both haunting and uplifting at the same time – in one word; perfect. Following this up with ‘I loved a butterfly’ from her album ‘Anthems’ which she worked on with Brian May. If you haven’t heard this it’s worth a listen and describes how things are not always as they seem.
At this time in the evening it was appropriate to stop and remember the great Jon Lord who sadly passed away recently. First came Steve Balsamo who sang ‘Pictured Within’ by Jon Lord who had written the song about his family and those closest. This was followed by a remembrance for Jon Lord again by Steve Balsamo who read out a letter he had written to Jon to say thank you for everything; which is a lot. The silence in the room throughout was tangible, with everyone united in the same feeling of loss for a great man, while images were shown on the screens along with messages from metal’s great in tribute to their joint hero. I, and I am sure all there, was moved to tears long after the tribute ended and can only now add my own to a man that has given and done so much to the world and to those who knew him.
Following this we are treated to a performance from a group who had only been together for 12 weeks before this night which was to be their first ever public performance. ‘The Big C’ are a group of singers of all ages who have undergone treatment for cancer and through the charity Tenovus (http://www.tenovus.org.uk/) are harnessing the positive effects of singing. This collective deserve all respect for so many reasons including their truly fantastic performance. Their version of ‘Something inside so strong’ was truly beautiful and to then hear Bon Jovi’s ‘It’s my life’ was nothing short of inspirational and drew an extremely impressive and lasting standing ovation from the entire place – even those in the expensive tables were on their feet applauding and cheering wildly. A truly special performance from an incredible choir.
After a very long and well earned applause, Level 42′s Mark King is welcomed to the stage and as they said on the night, no one plays bass like he does and he certainly brings the funk back. So much so that those seated at tables are forced to leave their comfy seats and dance to a couple of Level 42 songs including “Lessons in love”. Throw in a little Uli John Roth on guitar for a trip back to the sixties for Cream’s ‘Sunshine of your love’. \m/ \m/
If you thought it couldn’t get louder, then you must not have heard of a chap called Bruce Dickinson. Immediately you can feel the audience being that little bit more alert; well as well as watching the back tables jump up and move towards the front. ‘Behind blue eyes’ by The Who was to be our treat and what a treat it was. The combination of a great song, Bruce’s voice and the backdrop and lighting was just amazing! Cranking the amaze factor up even more with the next song – a cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Emerald” with Ian Paice on drums, Brian May on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass, Brian Auger on keys and Bruce Dickinson doing what he also does best. I mean seriously!!!!! You could easily have thought this was a fantasy set list, but no, I got to witness it for real. That’s members of Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Queen and Led Zeppelin all playing together – unbelievable stuff!
Back on stage next is Kerry Ellis again to sing Rainbows’s ‘Since you been gone’ with Brian May, and yes, it really was that good. Though good cannot possibly describe the next performer….and performer is definitely what he is. Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Alice Cooper \m/.
First up is a Chuck Berry song ‘Nadine’ which was very unexpected indeed but this is Alice Cooper – that man can pull anything off in style. He also managed to pull the voices of the audience into the air with ‘Elected’. It was great to see him interacting with the other musicians although Brian May seemed a touch nervous when Alice Cooper was behind him with his cane across Brian Mays neck ! Then Alice had the whole crowd off their seats for ‘Schools out’. This performance it seemed was the highlight song of the evening with everyone as far as the eye could see (and with my view that was a lot) up on their feet dancing about, but no! For this evening would not be complete without one more tribute from all the evening’s artists coming back onto the stage, and being led by Bruce Dickinson for what was an absolutely incredible version of “Black Night” and then the grand finale – ‘Smoke on the water’. Just to see all of these artists on stage at one time, let alone the way they interact with each other with humour and respect, and to hear this song sang the way it was was really indescribable. There was simply no person left sitting down and the appreciation from the crowd was overpowering. This was a truly perfect tribute and way to end what was just an amazing night!
If you didn’t manage to go to this event this year then please keep an eye out for tickets for next year’s event. Not only is this a truly worthwhile cause, it was also one of the best events I have been to in years; the line-up, the songs, the quality of the performances, the organisation, everything was just inspiring. I and Ant will definitely be at next year’s event and the one after, and the one after that – after Sunday’s performance, there’s just no way you’d be able to stop us!
Please Note: It is still possible to donate online at http://www.thesunflowerjam.com/ so please, visit their website and read about the wonderful work of all involved and give what you can to help this truly worthwhile cause. If you do, we at Planetmosh salute and thank you \m/.