Julian Ovenden at the Hippodrome
London’s venerable Hippodrome re-opened this month, with the multi-talented singer, actor and musician Julian Ovenden being amongst the inaugural line-up of artists slated to play at the reinvigorated venue. Playing a six-night residency as part of the Live at the Hippodrome programme, Ovenden performed a varied set of 60s soul, pieces from musicals and contemporary works, with many of the pieces showcased from his debut album, If You Stay.
Bounding onto the stage in the intimate Matcham Room, Ovenden quickly developed a rapport with the audience, and introduced his backing quartet before launching into a jaunty rendition of Up, Up and Away. With his second piece arrived an immediate change of tempo – a moody performance of Barbara Streisand’s Where Do You Start, emphasising Ovenden’s versatile vocal range.
Fulfilling the Hippodrome’s promise to feature performers that reflect the “building’s varied performance history and theatrical heritage”, Ovenden disclosed the fact that his mother-in-law was a resident dancer at the venue in the 70s, musing that his life would have been very different indeed had she not chosen to retire in favour of motherhood. His frequent references to the influence of his family on his career showed in his song choice, with an impassioned recital of 10,000 Miles exuding the character of a performer who is often a world away from his young family.
A talented pianist in his own right, Ovenden took to the ivory at the mid-way point of the show, to perform two pieces on the vicissitudes of travel and distance, disclosing the difficulties of raising a family whilst he and his wife tread the boards on different sides of the Atlantic. Without the backing of his ensemble, Ovenden gave a deep performance of Pete Docherty’s For Lovers, followed by Noël Coward’s Matelot.
The final portion of the set was a combination of the intense and the uplifting, with Windmills of Your Mind receiving Ovenden’s “reupholstered” treatment, whilst a reworked Stop All The Clocks proved to be the most powerful piece of the night. Promising to send the audience home with a smile on their faces, Ovenden sang the uplifting You Make Me So Very Happy, ably backed by his quartet’s gusto-fuelled rhythm. A curiously downbeat piano recital of Randy Newman’s When Somebody Loved Me provided the encore to Ovenden’s richly varied set, which, at just over an hour, was perhaps brief and yet impressive.
Creating an atmospheric and gentle experience in the intimate Matcham Room, Julian Ovenden gave the ideal performance at a venue tailor-made for his talents. A fitting, yet excellently diverse performance.
Jonathan David Brunton
Julian Ovenden is performing at the Hippodrome’s Matcham Room, London, until 21st July 2012.