Monday, 14 October 2013

With one look I play every part

Dismissing the fact that just about everyone seems fascinated how a woman of 81 can do what she does - cut a whole new studio album including some challenging modern styles, and then go on a tour up and down the country to promote it - our Patron Saint Petula Clark (shamefully not yet a Dame) recently said:
"I don't think about my age and I don't care about anyone else's.

"It's about doing what you do well and about learning and progressing. I'm still learning. I don't ever think I know how to do this."
Nevertheless, to still be at the top of your game at the time of life when many people would prefer settling into a comfy armchair with a cup of tea and a copy of the People's Friend is a remarkable feat, indeed. And so it was as Madame Arcati, John-John and I (almost killing ourselves scaling the stairs to the Upper Circle) settled breathlessly into our seats in the packed Theatre Royal Drury Lane for the penultimate date on her month-long UK tour.

We sat, transfixed, as the great lady (accompanied by a small but accomplished band of fine musicians) glittered her way to the centre of that vast grandiose auditorium, and filled the whole place with the beauty and power of her voice. She certainly has lost little of her vocal dexterity, and admirably still has the stamina to tackle a wide-ranging selection of (often musically complex) numbers from her seven-decade career in a full two-hour show.

Everything we love Our Pet for was here, and more. From her early pop hits (Sailor, I Know a Place), through the Tony Hatch Songbook (I Couldn't Live Without Your Love, Colour My World, The Other Man's Grass Is Always Greener, Don't Sleep in the Subway) and her ballad from Finnigan's Rainbow (How Are Things in Glockamora?) right up to her newest material including covers of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy, Elvis's Love Me Tender and her mate John Lennon's Imagine, we couldn't fault her.

In between songs, she gave us some snippets of fascinating gossip such as the time when the young Pet and none other than Karen Carpenter found themselves in Elvis Presley's dressing-room, but apparently she made excuses and the two girls left before "Old Snakehips" could have his wicked way; and her odd experience of working with Fred Astaire and Francis Ford Coppola together in the height of the hippy trippy 60s. But throughout all these showbiz moments (she was entertaining the troops on Forces Radio at the age of eight, and she was there for Lennon and Ono's "bed-in for peace" and sang on Give Peace A Chance), it is the music that really makes her stand out. She is not for nothing one of the best selling British female artists in recording history, selling over 68 million records worldwide.

She did a magnificent version of her triumphal showstopper as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard:

We were treated to a most emotionally beautiful rendition of the song none other than Charlie Chaplin gifted to her:

Proving she can more than hold her own against the monstrous wave of modern-day "wibblers" and wannabees, she hushed the audience with her brilliant 2013 single Cut Copy Me:

But of course it was for her all-time classic Downtown that the cheers were inevitably the loudest:

In a year of seeing long-revered icons make major comebacks (Bowie) or appear on stage (Marianne Faithfull, Bryan Ferry), this particular Evening With Petula Clark made us really sit up and take notice - an evening we will certainly cherish for a long time!

We love Our Pet.

Petula Sally Olwen Clark, CBE (born 15th November 1932)


  1. What a lovely post, glad you had a great time. Petual's comeback has to be one of the least expected in recent memory, but a very welcomed one.

    1. She renewed our faith in her abilities, and the excellence of her comeback album just proves that innate talent will always shine through in the end - and damn the "here-today-gone-tomorrow" popstrels who consider themselves to be "singers". They are not.

      I honestly cannot see the likes of Cheryl Cole or Miley Cyrus having a career that will last seven decades, can you? Jx

  2. *Shudders* I certainly hope they will be long gone and forgotten! Although I guess Miley at least could still be getting her "stuff" out in her 80s *Throws up*

    Isn't it funny how women like Madonna and Cher can still be sexy, while that ship has sailed a long time a go for the likes of Britney? If you have some substance to back up the sexiness it never leaves you. If you don't, it's gone before you even hit 25 - which is the problem for a lot of those younger girls who seem to completely miss the point of what most of the women before them were doing. Instead of taking notes from, say, Madonna, they go for bloody Sabrina!

    1. The triumph of style (and by that I mean "being styled" by someone else's standards, however low) over substance is a constant these days. The paucity of genuinely talented people having any chance of success when faced by slags in knickers warbling through autotune is terribly sad... Jx


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