West End Switched Off Album Launch – St James Theatre, London – 27 April 2014
Jo Whiley has a lot to answer for. Ever since her live lounge became ludicrously successful we’ve demanded that artists strip back their perfectly produced music to a couple of strings and a man playing the spoons whilst simultaneously covering another ditty for our audio pleasure. West End Switched Off follows a pretty similar theme but with some of your favourite and should be favourite songs from the shows as they launched their album last week.
If you ever thought that musicals came with far too many talking bits, then this is the night and album for you. Set in the cosy studio of the St James theatre, the cabaret seating and relaxed atmosphere is a couple of fedoras and a lady smoking a cigarette holder short of the audience whispering ‘hot-cha’ and ‘whoopie.’
What followed was two acts and twenty incredibly well sung songs performed by a mix of remarkable singers. There were many highlights from the get go, but Chloe Hart of Hairspray fame giving a perfect rendition of ‘Pulled’ from The Addams Family would cause any person with ears and brain to question why this never made it to the West End (guys, there’s soon to be an empty theatre in the West End, just putting it out there).
Classics like ‘Bring Him Home’ and ‘One Night Only’ were obvious audience favourites, but the launch got truly interesting when the songs were played with. ‘Pure Imagination’ was transformed into a beautiful lounge song and ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’ became far sexier than it ever should be. Sadly this didn’t always work, some … interesting … choices were made with ‘Defying Gravity’ and would make those who wondered what Lene Marlin would sound like singing it very happy. However, the skill and joy coming from all involved makes it easy to forgive any blips. It would have also been nice for them to twist the ‘live lounge’ on its head and turn one or two classics into something more comfortable on a Katy Perry or One Direction album.
If we were to add anything to the night it would be a compere, someone to give a bit of context to each song and singer would stop those that don’t read The Stage religiously from scratching their heads through some of the more obscure choices.
West End Switched Off is set to return in the not too distant future. But for those who want their slightly more acoustic musical music right this very second, the first album is available to purchase through all good music purchasing websites.