Review by Daz Gale
Remember remember the 5th of November as that was the night Rachel Tucker brought fireworks to Cadogan Hall. To celebrate the release of her new album ‘You’re Already Home’ (which you can read my review on here), she took to the stage for her first concert in six years and reminded the audience on just what they’d been missing.
For anyone who has been living under a rock (as opposed to THE rock), Rachel Tucker has carved a name for herself as one of the greatest talents the West End has to offer. Since appearing as a finalist on ‘I’d Do Anything’ in 2008, Rachel has gone on to enjoy West End credits including two separate runs as Elphaba in Wicked and originating the role of Beverley and others in the West End production of Come From Away, reprising both roles on Broadway. You can currently find her at the Savoy Theatre on a Monday night guest starring as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, but if you thought she’d be resting her voice the day before to prepare for that role, think again.
From the moment she appeared on an empty, relatively dark stage singing ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ completely acapella without a microphone, I got the sense we were in for a special night. That opening number may have suggested we were in for a night of musical theatre, but the setlist proved to be far more versatile than that.
Rachel’s third album ‘You’re Already Home’ was released last Friday and features a songbook you might not necessarily expect from her, focusing on covers of rock, folk and Americano songs as well as a smattering of musical theatre numbers of course. All 13 of these songs got an outing as part of the concert, being brought to life in the best possible way as these carefully hand-picked songs translated to the stage effortlessly. Highlights from the album included a rendition of Lewis Capaldi’s ‘Before You Go’, an unexpected but rousing cover of The Rolling Stones ‘Following The River’ and a gorgeous version of the only original track on the album – the phenomenal ‘I’m Home’ written by fellow musical theatre performer Caroline Kay.
For what is possibly the standout track on the album, a cover of Billie Eilish’s ‘Happier Than Ever’, she brought Jamie Muscato out to recreate their recorded duet in what may well be the single greatest vocal performance Cadogan Hall has ever witnessed. The grit of the lyrics led to a true masterclass performance, leaving me astounded at witnessing two of the greatest West End talents reach new levels of brilliance together. The pair continued for a brilliantly fun cover of Tina Turner’s ‘Proud Mary’ interspersed with a bit of ‘River Deep, Mountain High’.
Jamie wasn’t Rachel’s only special guest of the evening. She kept it in the family for her second guest, bringing her 10 year old son out on to the stage for his professional debut as he played the drums as Rachel sung ‘Uptown Funk’ in what was an incredibly sweet moment and proving the talent in the family transcends through multiple generations and we should keep an eye out for Rachel’s son in the years to come. Rachel then followed this with her beautifully emotive and honest interpretation of ‘He’s My Boy’ from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, leaving not a dry eye in the house.
Of course we were treated to several musical theatre numbers throughout the evening, with a highlight being Rachel in full Norma Desmond mode (with less blood) giving us a storming version of ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’ and proving why Monday nights at the Savoy are unmissable. She may be more commonly known for her time in Wicked but Rachel paid tribute to another show set in Oz as she belted out ‘Home’ from The Wiz. Another stagey highlight came as Rachel took on Liza Minelli in her own unique way, turning ‘Liza With a Z’ into ‘Tucker with a T’ (not Tucker with an F).
Fans had been waiting for a nod to Rachel’s time in Come From Away and Wicked but even they couldn’t have been prepared for what was about to happen. In the undoubted highlight of the night, a rousing ‘Me and the Sky’ seamlessly segued into ‘Defying Gravity’ in a transition so flawless it drew gasps from the audience. A stunning arrangement complete with Rachel’s vocals sounding better than ever, it was well deserving of the lengthy standing ovation it received.
The show was held together by the expert music direction of Sam Young whose breath-taking arrangements of these varied numbers was exceptional to witness. Sam’s accompaniment throughout these numbers, particularly on ‘Before You Go’ showcasing the incredible musicality and making some of these classics sound fresh and always beautiful. Backed with an eight piece band, the sound that came from that stage was glorious, with backing vocals from Megan Hill, Nardia Ruth and Abel Law lifting the songs further.
The real star, however, is Rachel Tucker’s voice. The way she is able to tell stories and convey emotion through song really is second to none with a range that defies expectation (as well as gravity). Just when you think she can’t get any better or go any bigger, she manages it with a seeming effortlessness that seems impossible to comprehend. Never faltering throughout, Rachel proved from her bold opening moment until her final farewell of the evening why she is one of the best in the business.
You may have expectations of what a Rachel Tucker concert might look and sound like and how good it might be. You are wrong on every count, With an unexpected and versatile setlist, this wasn’t just a good show, it wasn’t even a great show, it was an absolutely miraculous show. As special as it gets, this was without a doubt one of the best concerts I have ever had the pleasure of attending. Rachel’s new album has a theme of her trying to find where her home is – this concert proved that the stage is her spiritual home. In her performance, she also managed to make the packed audience feel like they were at home too. To quote a line from Sunset Boulevard, she truly could be the greatest star of all.
There’s No Business Like Show Business
All Right Now
Wouldn’t It Be Loverly
I’m Gonna Be Strong
Tucker With a T
Before You Go
Following The River
Uptown Funk (with her son Ben on drums)
He’s My Boy
It All Fades Away
As If We Never Said Goodbye
Happier Than Ever (duet with Jamie Muscato)
Proud Mary/River Deep Mountain High (duet with Jamie Muscato)
Party Of One
Me And The Sky/Defying Gravity
Whole Of The Moon
Rachel Tucker played at Cadogan Hall on Sunday 5th November. Her new album ‘You’re Already Home’ is now available on CD and digitally from https://linktr.ee/Rachel.Tucker
Photos by Danny Kaan