Alfie comes home

Pictures:Bill Johnson.'Alfie Boe at Blackpool's Opera House.
Pictures:Bill Johnson.'Alfie Boe at Blackpool's Opera House.
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Alfie Boe - Blackpool Opera House

Alfie Boe’s concert dates were surely named in honour of his weekend date in Blackpool, where he held a sell-out audience in the palm of his hand for a truly breathtaking performance.

It was billed as the Bring Him Home tour and on Saturday, he returned not only to his birthplace but to the venue where he once swept the floors, in a triumphant celebration of everything he has achieved in between.

His delivery of the heart-stopping hit of the same name from Les Miserables brought the capacity crowd to its feet and prompted the remark, as he smiled from ear to ear in genuine delight at the reception: “But I’m still a cod ‘ead.”

Raised in Fleetwood, Alfie was the youngest of nine children and his family were out in force to witness his return to the stage he used to clean and set up – for such as Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey and the Everly Brothers.

“And now I’m here,” he marvelled. “It’s scary. My old boss still works here. He sacked me. I’ll smash his face in afterwards.”

Typical self-deprecating humour from a man who clearly still counts the Fylde coast as home, despite earning rave reviews as Jean Valjean in Les Mis; earlier this year he took to the stage of the Royal Albert Hall for the 25th anniversary concert and took part in ITV’s Comedy Rocks with comic Jason Manford.

Apparently, he was supposed to sing The Impossible Dream with comic Matt Lucas who was ill. Manford stepped in to rescue the planned duet.

So, from his seat in the third row, he joined Alfie on stage to sing it once again.

They were joined by soprano Laura Wright whose brilliant earlier solo of The Rose had also been rewarded with rapturous applause.

While the nation’s attentions were on the live TV finals of Strictly Come Dancing round the corner at the Tower Ballroom, Mr Manford and the 3,000 others behind him wanted to be nowhere else but here.

It was a bonus for those closest to the comedian’s seat (er, myself among them, I confess) who managed to block his path to the ice cream seller at the interval. On the pretext of congratulating him for what actually really was an able performance, he was waylaid for a few pictures and autographs delivered, I might add, with such good grace that he won over Alfie’s audience even more than his words had as he joined him on the stage.

Alfie went on to include several songs from his CD – As If We Never Said Goodbye and Tell Me It’s Not True among them – in a set that never lost momentum and was scattered with references to his Fleetwood roots.

And then, in a tribute to his audience in Blackpool, he spoke of the scale of his current tour that has taken him into venes across the UK including the magnificent setting of the Royal Albert Hall, adding with visible emotion: “But this is where my heart lay. Tonight.”