Southside returned to Stowe on Friday 27 May after a COVID enforced absence. Ben Weston and Ben Andrew kicked off the proceedings with the Stereophonics Mr Writer and Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror. These set just the right tone for the commencement of the evening.
Seb Foxwell (Upper Sixth, Walpole) was in danger of setting the entire marquee alight as I feared he might spontaneously combust after a fearsome rendition of Billy Joel’s Root Beer Rag. Snoh Aalegra’s Fool for You was given an elegant rendition by Ben Li (Upper Sixth, Cobham), whilst Sam Stephens-Liddell (Upper Sixth, Grenville) and Vann Daly’s (Upper Sixth, Temple) version of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In an Aeroplane Over the Sea was, I felt, considerably better than the original! Clara Tearle (Upper Sixth, Queen’s) was up next and delivered First Aid Kit’s Wolf and Pink’s Glitter in the Air with such elegance and sophistication that she was captivating to watch, let alone listen to. This current Stoic set was then wound up with the debuts of two original compositions, Nothing Was Better by Paris Xaviera (Upper Sixth, Queen’s) and Shouting State of Mind by Izzy Prothero (Upper Sixth, Lyttelton).
Now the act for which we had been waiting for for two years – singer/songwriter du jour Tom Walker. He kicked off his set with Not Giving In, to the delight of the audience and which duly received our enthusiastic approbation. He then announced “I don’t usually do covers” and promptly launched himself into a version of The Four Seasons Beggin’. Curiously, despite his announcement, he scattered the rest of his set with no less than five more covers.
Tom has a charming and endearing personality and he communicates really well with the audience. He gave serious welly to George Ezra’s Blame it on Me, which was followed by a superbly powerful ballad Wait for You and a new song Universal Love followed thereafter.
His new single, Serotonin and Why did we go so Wrong? wound the audience up to fever pitch, who then exploded into joining Tom in the sing-a-long chorus of Leave the Light On.
After Tom, something really rather extraordinary happened. As the Head leapt onto the stage to introduce the Headliner, Lulu, an amorphous chant of “Wally! Wally! Wally!” swelled up from the current Stoics, which quickly rose to a crescendo, rendering him momentarily speechless! Eventually, as the chanting subsided, Dr Wallersteiner gave a brief resume of Lulu’s career before welcoming her to the stage.
I remember whilst my parents were driving me back to my prep school for my last term during the 60s, the car radio suddenly let forth an extraordinary single word explosion – “Weh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, ell!” followed by “You know you make me want to shout…”. This, I thought was one of the most exciting song intros that I had ever heard. Fifty-eight years later the same cadence ricocheted around the marquee on the South Front at Stowe – and I can honestly say that it had lost none of its impact. Leaping nimbly on to the stage, the fuchsia and rhinestone clad Lulu grabbed us all, metaphorically, by the shoulders and shook the living daylights out of us – I mean, what an opening!
Lulu then proceeded to take us on a biographical journey of all her hits through To Sir with Love, The Man with the Golden Gun and David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World. Aged 73, Lulu proved that she still has what it takes to deliver a belter of a show, which she completed with Womack & Womack’s Teardrops and appropriately enough, Elton John’s I’m Still Standing.
Well, what a show that was! It was really rather great to see just how generously the current Stoics embraced both Tom Walker and Lulu equally, despite the different genres and age differences.