Winding Wheel Theatre, Chesterfield
March 3rd 2016
Reviewer -Mark Ritchie
A date tagged on the front of the latest Joe Longthorne tour, effectively became the opening of what is surely one of the greatest of all show business comebacks.
Complete with his orchestra, with celebrated M.D Steve ‘Stretch’ Price at the helm, the ultra slim-line Mr Longthorne returned, after yet another battle with cancer, to The Winding Wheel theatre in Chesterfield.
Opening support was provided by that most expansive of personality performers, Leye D Johns. The operator and resident compere at the Viva Cabaret venue in Blackpool, Mr Johns made the utmost of his opportunity to plug the planned Sunday evening appearances for The Joe Longthorne Show during the long Blackpool season.
Many audience members appeared to have been visibly moved as Joe Longthorne walked on with his band members beside him. Looking dapper in a beautifully cut suit, Joe joked that he was feeling the cold, before rolling up a trouser leg and revealing he was wearing long-johns. Well, it can be pretty chilly under Chesterfield’s famous crooked spire during the dark winter months.
I hope that no-one dares to tell Joe’s army of devoted fans that their show business hero is now in the twilight of his career. Mr Longthorne has big plans, with his No Regrets tour being merely first on the agenda.
The Gilbert Becaud song, How Do You Keep the Music Playing, has always been a favourite of mine and Joe’s rendition is as touching as ever.
During the one hour and twenty minute show appearance, Joe gave his audience a jarring insight into the way his latest cancer battle has impacted on his approach to stage work and singing generally. Joe informed us that one of the saliva glands in his mouth has in fact ceased to function and that medicinal unction had to be regularly administered. In true showman style, Joe made a joke out of the whole thing by comically ducking behind a speaker at the side of the stage in order to administer more of this product to the inside of his mouth, whilst out of view of his audience.
The comedy continued with an impression of Donald Trump, which brought the house down. Even a good-natured heckler, who seemed intent on holding a conversation with Joe between songs, proved useful. Whilst Joe was reminding his audience of his hope that he could still remember the names of his band on stage, the aforementioned heckler commented loudly and sagely: ’We won’t ever forget your name Joe’.
This was a typically brave and gutsy performance from a modern day show business legend. Just watching Joe Longthorne proved a surprisingly poignant experience and the Don Black classic, If I Never Sing another Song produced a standing ovation and the prelude to an avalanche of flowers and gifts handed over the footlights to the recipient of so much love and admiration.