Paul Bogaev Master Class. Photo by Chad Anderson Photography.

Review of No Surrender – Upstairs at The Gatehouse

I wasn’t exactly an expert on the back catalogues of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits going into No Surrender, but even I knew there was something suspiciously ‘other’ about one of the choruses in the opening medley. Sure enough, Paul Bogaev explained he had indeed snuck in an Ed Sheeran song. Mind you, it fitted in well, both lyrically and melodically, and Bogaev’s ability to spin a yarn kept the show intriguing throughout.

Paul Bogaev Master Class. The Klein - Photo by Chad Anderson Photography.
Paul Bogaev Master Class. The Klein – Photo by Chad Anderson Photography.

On stage, it was just Bogaev and his trusty keyboard, and – as he pointed out – the set for the show currently running at the venue, Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For A New World, which included two American flags, one with significantly fewer stars on it than the other, for narrative purposes which we need not go into here. It slowly became clear that Bogaev’s career as a musical director and conductor, across film and theatre, has involved decades of working with what he’s given – and so it was, with the stage being what it was, that he made a rendering of Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ sound very apt. Indeed, one might have been forgiven that the Stars and Stripes were on stage as part of Bogaev’s concert rather than already in situ for the current eight-shows-a-week production.

Anyway, the well-travelled maestro had quite the collection of anecdotes and recollections – and I always like to think of there being, broadly speaking, two categories of audience member in the house. The first group knows everything there is to know about Springsteen and Waits, and will (hopefully metaphorically) bite Bogaev’s hand off if he should get a quote or a lyric even slightly wrong. The second group just doesn’t, and for those of us in the latter category, there was much to learn and discover.

Bogaev admitted his Americanness some way into the show: I couldn’t tell whether the sharp intake of breath from certain patrons was to do with their ‘beloved’ (inverted commas mine) right to bear arms, or their phonetic pronunciation of Gloucestershire (for example), or, as Bogaev had reason to believe, his own ‘American dad’ leanings, in which, he says, he likes to embarrass his now grown-up children. One of his sons was in the audience at the performance I attended, as were several members of the cast of a London production of Pacific Overtures, a Stephen Sondheim musical. The older Bogaev got rather emotional when speaking about his eldest son, whom he dedicated the final song to, but otherwise, his larger-than-life personality shone through time and time again.

He was very aware he was presenting all this material to a London audience – so there were stories about his previous work in Britain, including one about recording the soundtrack for the motion picture Chicago: he had detractors, but the film went on to win several Oscars and the Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album, which he felt was sufficient vindication. Like all the best single performer, single act concerts, this one was over all too soon, and as this publication might have persuaded him by way of a previous six-star review to put on a second one-off special, perhaps a combined total of eleven stars could sway him to perform a third. A brief but bold and breathtaking experience.

5 Stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

For one night only, Grammy and Emmy Award Winning musician Paul Bogaev presents an evening of songs from legendary songwriters Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits.

Featuring classics like THUNDER ROAD and NO SURRENDER, Paul inhabits the rich, complex characters at the heart of these quintessentially American narratives, bringing them to life in performance.

Paul is currently Musical Director of the highly-acclaimed revival of Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

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