Eastbourne: Why music is so important to Rob Brydon
As a singer, Rob reached number one with the Comic Relief song Islands in the Stream, performed with Bryn Terfel on his best-selling album and even came to sing the Welsh national anthem with Coldplay at one of their concerts at the Principality Stadium. And that’s where Rob will focus on his last tour. It may come as a surprise to some, but for Rob: “It sounds like the show I should be doing. For me, this is nothing new at all. To me, it feels like an extension of what I’ve always done, but maybe it will be new to a lot of the audience. It depends on how closely you follow someone’s career. There will be plenty of people who know that this is what I’m doing and plenty of people who don’t.
“I started this tour before the pandemic. We had done 12 shows, and we certainly noticed that at the start of the show, for the first five minutes, people were thinking, “Well, what’s this going to be?” The audience arrives and the first thing they see is a group of nine musicians.
But the point is, music has always been a big part of Rob’s life. In the show, there will be an autobiographical element: “I’ll be talking about being at the school where I first met (Gavin and Stacey co-star) Ruth Jones and we were doing musicals together. I’m going to tell stories about being a teenage boy in love playing in Guys and Dolls. And then it goes through drama school and then now singing with some really huge names like Neil Diamond and Tom Jones, and there’s going to be a little bit of Gavin and Stacey in there too. And I’ll even invent a song … “
Music has often been a part of his stand-up show, but Rob has thought carefully about giving it the emphasis that this new show has now. Rob was a guest on Joe Stilgoe’s Christmas show at Lyric, Hammersmith, and a producer friend suggested doing something like the show he’s doing.
“I was very suspicious of the idea. When someone who is known primarily for one thing starts doing something else, then you may be greeted with a bit of suspicion. “
But the idea germinated in him, especially the fascinating process of selecting songs – inevitably songs that meant something to Rob: “They had to be songs that had meaning in my life. I’ve Never Been in Love Before by Guys and Dolls because it’s a song I sang to the girl in front of me at school that I was madly in love with. Rehearsals were held after school every day, and I have such vivid memories that I had never been in love before.
And yes, unfortunately, it was not reciprocated: “She saw a surfer called Mike. I barely got to his size. I had no chance.
There will also be Smile (Though Your Heart Is Breaking) which Rob did with Tom Jones: “But you also have to think about the structure of the series. I find it easier to find sad songs than upbeat songs. But this is where having already done 12 shows before the pandemic is going to really help. We had a 12-show trial, then 18 months to think about it.
“(With the pandemic) we’ve had it so much easier than so many other people, however – people who have gone through a real tragedy in their lives. I wouldn’t say for a second “Woe to me!” But in my job, it’s the live audiences that have been hit the hardest, that have really suffered. You can now feel an almost palpable desire to come back there. I think at first there will be reluctance and hesitation, but soon that will give way to the sheer pleasure of that old-fashioned feeling of shared experience that is so much a part of our lives. You remember when the lockdown eased and they said we could go out for a walk with our friends, and you remember how much that meant to us. You remember how good it was.
Rob is sure that our return to the shared experience of theater and live music will be much the same …