Review: Frank Ifield Remembers, Congress Theatre, Cwmbran

Nowadays, its a rare pleasure to catch many singers or musicians from the 1960s live on stage. In the case of UK born chart-topper, Frank Ifield, the singing star resides in Australia now, occasionally returning to the UK to  tour.

Frank’s South Wales date of the tour was originally meant to take place at the beginning of May. A severe throat infection sadly put paid to that, but like a real trooper he still turned up at the venue to say hello to fans and sign autographs before rescheduling his show for May 26th.

It was therefore pure magic when May 26th arrived and  Frank stepped on to the stage of Cwmbran’s Congress Theatre smartly attired in white jacket, purple shirt and black trousers performing his 1969 recording of Easy Come, Easy Go.

The show, entitled Frank Ifield Remembers, featured Frank performing many of his hits whilst recalling the stories behind them.

In many instances, Frank’s stories served as an education and insight into his life and career accompanied by video and image backdrops. Among the many memories included Frank performing the song Three Good Reasons on a TV show which captured the imagination of “Satchmo” aka Louis Armstrong who saw the performance. Louis contacted Frank and invited him over to where he was staying to play the recording before announcing that he also wanted to record it. Sadly Satchmo, died only a week later and never realised his heartfelt wish. Frank therefore dedicated the recording to his music hero.

Singer/songwriter Nicki Gillis provided support as special guest as well as a backing vocalist (as well as interjecting with Frank as he recalled stories)). Nicki’s moments frequently complemented Frank’s ongoing story performing wartime hits We’ll Meet Again and White Cliffs of Dover which provided a soundtrack to his upbringing in Coventry during wartime. Similarly, Nicki also paid homage to the singer Diana Trask, (of whom a young Frank Ifield occasionally performed with (and had a crush on)) with the hit Oh Boy, The Mood I’m In.

Frank Ifield on stage at Cwmbran's Congress Theatre with Nicki Gillis Picture: entertainmentsouthwalesFrank Ifield on stage at Cwmbran's Congress Theatre with Nicki Gillis Picture: entertainmentsouthwales

Frank Ifield on stage at Cwmbran’s Congress Theatre with Nicki Gillis Picture: entertainmentsouthwales

The show followed Frank’s early career in entertainment, including getting his own television show in Australia, of which a rare clip featuring Frank performing was shown. “It was live TV,” recalled Frank, “the clip abruptly ends because somebody walked past the camera and knocked it off the chair it was balanced on”. A comical story, but also a privilege to see such a priceless recording!

Frank’s return to his UK homeland and ultimately teaming up with legendary producer Norrie Paramor was covered in the second half. This included memorable performances of number one hits, I Remember You, Lovesick Blues (on video) and my personal favourite, The Wayward Wind.

Frank’s success ran concurrent alongside changing times in popular music, the pop successes of Elvis, Cliff Richard, The Shadows and Helen Shapiro, and then the heady days of Merseybeat and Beatlemania. Frank was one of the early acts that The Beatles supported on stage and he recalled how they were drawing an audience even before fame and fortune beckoned!

Frank’s show surpassed its promised two hour running time, although we weren’t complaining. Frank, along with Nicki Gillis, gave the audience more than their moneys worth in this magical nostalgic music show.

Frank Ifield’s music remains timeless, and it was an absolute privilege and a joy to see him  live on stage in a very intimate and personal performance. Long may Frank Ifield and his music continue to delight and entertain.

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