This review was originally written for The Public Reviews
January 26 2012
By popular demand Steven Webb, accompanied by some wonderfully talented friends, returned to the Landor Theatre to perform his “A Spotlight On..” evening , first aired ten days earlier. The intimate venue was packed with Webb’s friends and colleagues lending a genuinely relaxed air to an evening of songs that were as emotionally charged as they were beautifully performed.
Webb opened his set with “How Do You Know ‘Til You Try Me (Which You Haven’t and You Should)?” from Betwixt. Punchily delivered , and with able accompaniment from Steve Edis, it set the tone. Throughout the evening the singer possibly spent as much time re-telling anecdotes and stories as singing, but in the company of so many of Steven’s friends, the stories took on a mixture of warmth, tenderness, as well as at times outright blokey banter. At 28, the fact that he has already been performing professionally for 20 years is a remarkable achievement and Webb spoke appreciatively of the sacrifices his Wirral-based parents made to support him as a precocious 8 year old, making his West End debut as Oliver.
Steven selected not only songs from shows that he had performed in , but also songs that he enjoyed. With the talented Sarah Lark, he performed “Music of the Night” taking the familiar classic and re-working it to a beautifully harmonised duet. Later in the show, again with Miss Lark, with a nod to Betwixt he delivered a tribute to Ellen Greene with “Suddenly, Seymour” cheekily re-worded to “Suddenly Stevie”.
There is a symbiotic relationship between writers and singers at the moment ( was it ever thus?) with the young talent of the country writing and performing on each other’s albums with almost incestuous frequency. Nonetheless, it is a tribute to Webb that not only Chris Passey, Webb’s excellent MD, but also Dougal Irvine were there to perform at each of the Landor nights, with Irvine even joking of Webb’s apparent “residency” at the theatre. Both of these writers have included the singer in the launch events for their recent albums, and these performances were reprised. From Irvine’s album Acoustic Overtures, Webb sung the piercingly perceptive “Simple”, and from Passey’s Self Taught, Still Learning, he delivered the powerful number “Room for Me” . Both songs allowed Webb to immerse himself in their performance, giving each number a raw and human emotion. Irvine’s Departure Lounge had provided Webb with his return to musical theatre two years ago, and the close vocal harmony of the writer, also on guitar, dueting with Webb in “Do You Know What I Think Of You” was exquisite, Webb catching the bitter frustrations of a soured friendship with painful poignancy.
Elsewhere in the evening, Webb included a heartfelt tribute to Etta James, with “At Last”, and a song, written for him by Passey, and touchingly dedicated to his mother “From Your Loving Arms”
The show closed with an absolute treat. A song rarely if ever heard live, the bonus track from the Departure Lounge album “We Rule The World” , that had been dropped from the London production of the show. In a powerful and perfect 4 part harmony, Webb, Lark, Irvine and Passey united on stage to again move the audience with the perceptive intensity of a superbly crafted song, stunningly performed.
When Webb spoke of friendship, to an audience that included many of his friends, he spoke with honesty and openness – both of which virtues are manifest in all his performances, and evidence of why, at his young age, he is already such a gifted and accomplished performer. He remains a talent to follow and enjoy.