Luke Evans’ debut album At Last is full of emphatic pop covers and his powerful voice at full stretch, not always a winning combination
“No one can tell us we’re wrong”
Luke Evans’ debut album At Last is a collection of mainly pop covers that range across the ages, with a focus on songs best known for being sung by female artists. As a budding actor, Evans starred in musicals such as Avenue Q and Piaf but upon establishing himself as a Hollywood movie star, has somewhat turned his back on the world of musical theatre (to the point where many were surprised at the revelation he could sing in the remake of Beauty and the Beast). But we remember…and he can really sing.
Album opener ‘Love Is a Battlefield’ is drenched in orchestral and choral bombast which does eventually wear you down with its forceful determination. But Evans’ tendency to open out his voice to a powerful belt means that his interpretative skills as a singer tend to get left by the wayside, reduced to the opening and closing 30 seconds once the booster button has been released. As such, his version of Ewan McColl’s ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ opens, and closes, with a beautiful subtlety that is missed in much of the middle.
That booming vocal means Des’ree’s ‘Kissing You’ ends up shoving its tongue down your throat rather than caressing you as such a beautiful song should. And a plangent take on Cher’s ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ which strips back the song to piano and strings. This mainly has the effect of making it sound like an audition for the John Lewis Christmas ad, rather than a true reinvention that makes you listen to the lyrics anew.
It is an approach that does pay off well sometimes though. The driving pop balladry of ‘Changing’ is radio gold, soft rock staple ‘Show Me Heaven’ is actually a perfect fit for the robustness of Evans’ baritone and ‘Always Remember Us This Way’ from A Star is Born similarly sparkles with this treatment. And then unexpectedly, real tenderness emerges on Jessie Ware’s gorgeous ‘Say You Love Me’.
The choice to then end the album with Les Mis‘ never knowingly under-performed ‘Bring Him Home’ feels like a bit of a cop-out. Having studiously avoided musical theatre thus far (and been openly dismissive of it too), there’s something that just feels a bit cynical about both its inclusion here and his use of this song to promote At Last on the likes of Strictly. There’s absolutely nothing wrong about not wanting to do an album of showtunes, but there’s certainly something off about people who like to have their cake and eat it.