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Natasha Douglas at The Orchard Theatre in Dartford on Saturday May 31st and The London Palladium on Sunday June 1st 2003
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I always like to laugh when I think back to the first ever Gene Pitney concert I went to in 1993 and how I came to gain my tickets for that special night...Actually, I have to laugh when I think about how I became a fan in the first place as well, but that’s another story and I’m moving away from my point, so...
......Anyway, as I was saying, it makes me laugh because I’d been a fan for a year and had read in a CD inlay that Gene still toured, but I had no idea as to when and where. Then, one day, my mum phoned our local theatre to ask if her (and my dad’s) favourite band from the ‘70s - Showaddywaddy - would be appearing there any time in the near future. The lady at the box office said ‘no’, and then - for no particular reason - added ‘but we have got Gene Pitney here in October’, a good couple of months before the tickets actually went on sale...as though I was meant to go to that show. That story has become a legend, if not a puzzle, in our house since just because we wonder what would have happened if that lady hadn’t let that piece of information slip or my mum hadn’t made that call. Whatever the case, four months after booking an over-excited twelve-year-old sat down in her fourth row seat next to her mother and anticipated the appearance of the singer she had idolised for over a year. I’d never been to a concert of any sort before, so I didn’t know what to expect, and when the support act - comedian Bradley Walsh near the start of his career - appeared I have to confess to a twinge of aggravation, but it was hilarious, helped me to relax a little and it wasn’t long before the orchestra struck up, the overture played and then...”Ladies and gentlemen, would you please welcome the star of tonight’s show: Mr Gene Pitney!” I think my heart skipped a beat the instant Gene stepped out onto the stage and what followed was a performance that - as anybody that has been to one of Mr P’s concerts will know - was magical to say the least, with a couple of songs I’d never heard before and friendly banter with the audience between tunes (including a joke about the ‘24 Toasters From Scunthorpe’ ad that was out at the time and one of the stagehand’s inability to hurry and get a stool for Gene to put stuff on during the section when he reads out the cards from fans).
...Whizzing ahead ten years the memories are still fresh because that night was so special, but the process has been repeated another eight or so times since and each was momentous and memorable in it’s own special way - with two separate occasions when my father secretly sent a card backstage and Gene ended up calling me to the stage, varying support acts, and shows delivered by Gene, Maurice and co. that only seem to get better and better every single time.
...Along the way I’ve also gained a greater respect for Gene and his music, and the best, most valuable friends that anybody could ever dream of having - proof positive that his fans are the nicest :-)...So when I learned that one of them - Karin Crabb - would be flying in from Sweden for the show this year in my hometown at The Orchard Theatre with TXJan from the States, I knew I was about to have yet another bunch of special memories to add to my collection.
...Plans were made, and everything was set...
...Sadly, as usual, all best laid plans fall apart, and ours came in the form of Jan missing her flight - therefore having to miss the concert. I was not about to let the Fates spoil my excitement though, and I met with Karin outside the theatre almost two hours before the show. We went to a small, nearby cafe and had a wonderful chat. On our way back to the theatre we met Adrian Brown the guitarist round by the loading bay (I got my photo taken with him!), stopped for a small talk, and then continued on to the theatre foyer...which was - of course - followed by the eager purchase of merchandise! Half an hour later my mum - who was taking Jan’s vacant seat and seeing her first show in five years - arrived, had a quick drink and then it was time to go in to see the support act - country singer Annie Simms, who was very entertaining to listen to and I wish her the greatest of luck and success with her career.
...Gene Francis Alan Pitney was who I was there to see, though, and after a short interlude it was time for those adrenaline levels to be pumped up to the max once again...Maurice Merry stepped in front of the orchestra, the first chords of the overture filled the auditorium, and suddenly it was like being at that first-ever show again...being that twelve-year-old kid experiencing it all over again but at a slightly higher level. And it all came together when Gene’s voice belted out the first lines of ‘24 Hours From Tulsa’. There was a slight low microphone volume problem - which sounded as if it hadn’t been channelled to the rear loudspeakers from where I was - but this was fixed within seconds, and was far from able to ruin the audience’s enjoyment of the powerful running order for the first half:
....................‘24 Hours From Tulsa’
....................‘I Must Be Seeing Things’
....................‘Nobody Needs Your Love’ (reggae style)
....................‘If I Didn't Have A Dime’
....................‘Who Needs It’
....................‘Looking Thru The Eyes Of Love’
....................‘It Hurts To Be In Love’
....................‘Princess In Rags’
....................‘Half-Heaven, Half-Heartache’
....................‘I'm Gonna Be Strong’...
Of course, that last note of
‘I’m Gonna Be Strong’ still has the ability to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and there was the added awe that Gene was able to achieve it considering the sweltering temperature the weather had decided to deliver.
...Half-time break meant fan cards, and there were more funny ones as usual, including “They say you always hurt the one you love...<inside card>...Spank me!”, “They say you’re only as old as you feel, so can I have a feel to see how old...” and “Women look for one thing in a man your age: a pulse!”...And - much to my surprise - my card mentioning Gene’s Hall of Fame induction made a comeback!
And then the second half was underway, with Gene accompanying himself with guitar on Harry Belafonte’s classics
‘Jamaica Farewell’ and ‘Scarlet Ribbons’. In conjunction with the new Bronze/Pitfield CD release the catchy and brilliantly arranged song ‘Soon’ replaced Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ (which had been in the order for the last couple of years) and was a VERY welcome addition. The rest of the show was no weaker than the start...no less enjoyable that what we had witnessed before, and both Gene and the audience appeared to be having fun - I was so happy to be a part of it all.
.....................‘Blue Angel’
....................‘I Wanna Love My Life Away’
....................‘Hello Mary Lou’
....................‘Rubber Ball’
....................‘She's A Rebel’
....................‘Ocean's Away’
....................‘She's A Heartbreaker’
....................‘Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart’
All too soon, though, it was over, Gene was leaving the stage having finished
‘Town Without Pity’ (which the audience stood up to clap along with) and Dartford was losing its old friend.
...Fortunately for me a week later I had my seat booked to see the last show of the tour at the London Palladium (although it seemed like a lifetime before it finally came around!), where I managed to met more wonderful fans.
...Honestly, for those that weren’t there, it is difficult to even begin describing the amount of electricity that crackled in the air as Gene sang those songs again even more powerfully and beautifully than the last time I’d heard them.
...Twenty-one dates...Sell-outs nearly everywhere...To be able to attend just one of those is a gift. For me, I had the ultimate pleasure of making it to two. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like for those that make it to more or even all, because - as I said near the start of this - each and every single performance by Gene is magical in its own right. I once looked up the word ‘odyssey’ in the dictionary and the definition read ‘a long, adventurous journey’...And that’s exactly what I think you’re taken on when you become a Pitney fan and follow Gene: a musical odyssey...Not just Gene’s forty-year-plus career, but also each tour is an adventurous journey, and every mile is worth walking. Here’s to many more years on this exciting road!!!
...My deepest thanks to Gene for...Well, just about everything...Guy and Maurice Merry, the musos for brilliant music...And Karin, Kathy Owen, Joan Fry, Barbara Matthews and too many other names to mention (I’m hoping you know who you are! :0) ) for being such wonderful friends and a delight to meet...The memories from this year are certainly ones to treasure forever.

...~~Natasha ‘Sketch’ Douglas xxx