I’ve been to Las Vegas and I probably won’t be going back. Don’t get me wrong, it was hilarious, totally bonkers and utterly exhausting. There is probably no other place on the planet that exemplifies excess better. I loved hating it and at the same time hated loving it. And the biggest disappointment was being there when the Donny and Marie show was not on. We saw another show, Broadway musicals, and it was slick, but it wasn’t Donny and Marie.
Last night that disappointment was swept away when Donny brought his Vegas show to the Brighton Centre. I grew up with the Osmonds always in view, I am a year older than Donny so saw the tot on the Andy Williams show, great television by the way and perhaps the first mainstream show to explore bizarre comedy. He and his brothers would sing, dance, play instruments… it seemed that their talents were boundless.
Last night Donny recounted his entertainment history in an exhaustive rap, illustrated with amazing archival footage and images, a feat of performance and tech that was truly impressive. And it was warts and all, the highs and the lows of a career spanning six decades.
This show was an amazing and exuberant example of how to do things, an ace band, eight terrific dancers, brilliant visuals and all the hits. That should have been enough surely, I mean how much money can you throw at a tour? Well the truth is that the expense lavished on this glittering production was but a drop in the ocean when compared to the evident star quality of this performer. At 66 he seems not to have aged in any sense, he looks great, he is clearly as fit as the proverbial butcher’s dog and the voice is great, in fact the voice seems better than any memory I have of it.
It’s time to come clean, i was never really an Osmonds fan, they were far to pop for a teenager growing up in the ages of rock and prog rock. So why I ask did I know the words to nearly all of those hits, and so many hits. The truth is of course that our music experience back in the seventies was driven by the charts, the top twenty. We all listened and in doing so we not only heard the rare tracks that our fashion led tastes would occasionally present, we would hear the pure pop gems of the era too, and in hindsight that pure pop had legs, those ones have stood the test of time, I doubt I would be singing along to Yes or ELP!
So last night as he delivered all those hits I found myself singing along, and they were all there too, he was giving the audience exactly what they wanted, an evening of highlights cherry picked from his catalogue of 65 albums, yes 65. It was a perfectly curated tour of a career in the limelight of the world of pop, and an international career too.
Back in the day Donny would be mobbed by his girl fans, security was essential and last night the capacity crowd was almost entirely made up of those fans now grown up. It was an oestrogen fuelled frenzy of fandom with an almost tangible whiff of HRT patches. Donny, now an adult, rose to their adoration by leaving the stage and turning over the musical set choices to his fans. Climbing down from the platform he went into the crowd, scaling the tiered seating to reach his fans and asking them to choose a song for him to serenade them with. Anything he said, anything from 65 albums and probably therefore around 650 songs, maybe more. Of course for the most part they chose the hits, but unfazed he delivered one after another, usually with a lady clinging so close that he might easily have been suffocated. It was an act of musical and entertainment heroism. And on his return to the stage some 20 minutes later he mentioned that a man in the audience had shouted out for Crazy Horses, so he did it. How the audience cheered and joined in.
This show was slick, precisely staged and totally thrilling. I have not named any of the hits, bar one, there is little point because like me, fan or not, you most likely know them all. Donny is note perfect, step perfect and a real example of perfect stardom. This UK tour ends this week at the Hammersmith, no doubt sold out, but were I able to, I would do it all again.
The Brighton Centre