“Open up your mind, let your fantasies unwind”
To the casual viewer, Ramin Karimloo might seem like your average, insanely buff leading man with a voice of honeyed gold, but his artistic vision lies far beyond musical theatre into the world of music at large. For he’s a singer/songwriter as well as a performer and as his tastes incline towards the folk and country side of things, the phrase Broadgrass has been conjured to capture his inimitable style – a portmanteau of Broadway and bluegrass doncha know!
And though a couple of less-well-informed reviewers were taken by surprise, it is far from a new venture in Karimloo’s career. His band Sheytoons, formed with fellow MT star Hadley Fraser has been going since 2010, and he’s released 2 EPs since then, The Road to Find Out East and The Road to Find Out South, so his commitment to the cause is most definitely sans doute and live at the London Palladium, it was abundantly in evidence.
Backed by his sterling band of Fraser, Sergio Ortega, Alan Markley, and Katie Birtill on guitar, banjo, fiddle and drums, the predominant feeling was one of easy musicality, Karimloo and his pals effortlessly switching from the comfortable groove of his original tracks to the re-imagined musical theatre classics that the audience lapped up – you haven’t ‘Oh! What A Beautiful Mornin” like this before. And you have to admire the ballsiness in going with a bunch of new tunes (South was only released at the beginning of the month) to accompany the ‘hits’ – it makes for a different kind of gig but one which undoubtedly has more integrity to it.
So the likes of ‘Bring Him Home’ and ‘Empty Chairs and Empty Tables’ (complete with amusing blooper from Fraser) are stripped back gorgeously to their very soul, ‘Ol’ Man River’ gains a powerful resonance, and Chess‘ ‘Anthem’ has arguably never sounded better. An interlude from Louise Dearman was fun, if not quite essential, as I’m quite the fan of the original material and the direction it has taken Karimloo. Tracks like ‘Broken’ and ‘Letting The Last One Go’ are perfectly crafted songs and they shimmer with the sense that this is a performer doing what he really, really wants to do.