Reuniting on a West End stage for the first time since their final performance in Sunny Afternoon in October 2015, Olivier Award winners John Dagleish and George Maguire played the first in a pair of concerts at Live at Zédel on Monday night (thanks to Just For Laughs Theatricals). Accompanied on the piano by another former Sunny Afternoon co-star Adam Sopp, the pair performed a variety of songs that have shaped their lives to date. From parental influence to recent experiences, they brought a real blend of musical genres to the packed out room.
Though it wouldn’t have been right to completely ignore the music that brought them together and took over both of their lives for such a significant period of time – the whole evening kicked off with Lola and ended with Waterloo Sunset, with A Long Way From Home and Sunny Afternoon also thrown in for good measure.
Both have a fondness for Bob Dylan (as you may remember if you went to any of John’s solo gigs Above the Arts), so it was no surprise that they went quickly onto Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (John), followed by Like A Rolling Stone (George). We were later treated to another of John’s love of old bluesy songs with St. James Infirmary (Gambler’s Blues).
As well as playing in bands (including an exclusively Green Day covers band – leading to a rendition of Basket Case, complete with piano solo), George has spent a lot of his life involved with musical theatre. Last year he starred as Jesus (can anyone see the resemblance?) in a production of Godspell at the Actors’ Church, leading him to choose Beautiful City as one of his tunes. We also heard a mashup of Where Is Love? (from Oliver!) and Tainted Love as George had performed in Oliver! as a child, but never made it to the role of the Artful Dodger; he joked that the combination of the two songs came about because his love for the show had been tainted by not getting that part!
A personal highlight was Tender, as it is my favourite Blur song – and it sounds incredible with their voices on that arrangement. George’s cover of Don McLean’s Vincent also struck a chord (pun not intended, surprisingly); I don’t remember ever hearing it before, despite knowing of its existence, but as van Gogh is one of my absolute favourite artists it was rather lovely to hear the lyrics in such a beautiful version. Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows also featured prominently, and they even reprised their cover of David Bowie’s Starman, which they had previously performed as part of the Sunny Afternoon reunion concert in aid of SeeAbility.
One of the best things about concerts like these is the intimacy and (with characters like John and George) the informality. Whether it’s a tangential story about tuning up in the middle of a previous gig (whilst tuning up), or breaking guitar strings, they bring an easy charm to proceedings that makes for an entertaining night all round. And if they need a bit of chivvying along, they have Adam on hand to simply start playing the next song! The venue – as stunning as ever – works perfectly, being the ideal size and having pretty good viewpoints everywhere in the room.
Next week’s show is sold out, but hopefully the success of these two concerts will allow some more to be put on in the future. In the introduction, producer Adam Blanshay said putting on these concerts was a selfish move on his part, but I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people have been made very happy because of it – including John and George themselves.
A Long Way From Home is at Live at Zédel on Tuesday 15 August 2017. Tickets are sold out.