Review: Russell Watson, “Only One Man”, Ipswich Regent, Ipswich, April 2

Russell Watson

Russell Watson - Credit: Archant

He’s performed for the Pope, Barack Obama and the Queen, and on Wednesday it was Ipswich’s turn to sample the delights of Russell Watson and his spectacular “Only One Man” Show.

He’s come a long way since his days performing in the working men’s clubs of the north west as a teenager, but the self-styled “People’s Tenor” has not forgotten his roots.

The venue may have been smaller and less palatial, but the 47-year-old delivered a performance fit for Royalty in front of a packed house at the Regent.

Watson would have been more than enough entertainment for two hours on his own, but joined by Britain’s Got Talent’s Jonathan Antoine – the brilliant Tenor and one-half of the recently-split Jonathan and Charlotte – and backed by the Arts Symphonic Orchestra, led superbly by the entertaining Robert Emery, the audience certainly got their money’s worth.

The singer, who has battled back from two brain tumours, was on top form and delivered pitch-perfect renditions of operatic favourites such as Nessun Dorma, Panis Angelicus and Nella Fantasia.

But there is another side to Watson who performed a number of new songs, some written for him by the duo behind Les Miserables, for his new “Only One Man” album, including the touching “Homeground”.

This particular number was instantly memorable and had me humming the chorus throughout the interval, while its words make a significant impact.

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The song was written for Homeground - a series of charity concerts marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. The proceeds from it will go to three charities, including the Falklands Veterans Foundation, which Watson was inaugurated into last year by Simon Weston, who reads poetry on the single.

Another new song, “My Love and I”, on the other hand, possessed indifferent lyrics including, “I long to be her scrubbing brush” but was performed with no less verve and passion.

Watson was conscious not to suffocate the audience with new material though and he hit the spot with songs from the hugely-successful Les Miserables, while the booming orchestra almost stole the show as they enjoyed two spells in the limelight, with their stunning Sci-Fi medley in the second half a wonderful spectacle.

But it wasn’t just about the music, and Watson doesn’t take himself too seriously, possessing a dry and extremely witty sense of humour that had the audience in the palm of his hand.

He was once described by Rupert Christiansen, music critic of The Daily Telegraph, as a “karaoke crooner”, but that was water off a duck’s back for the care-free performer.

Already with a career spanning 25 years, including his time singing in the clubs, Watson once said his ambition was to have longevity, and be a musical force for a good long while.

On this evidence, Watson’s powers show no sign of waning.