Stephanie Mackentyre Meets singer, actress and broadcaster Elaine Paige OBE
Elaine Paige has announced a twenty date series of concerts from October to December this year, calling it her ‘Stripped Back’ tour which will see her perform her favourite tracks from an array of contemporary songwriters, with a small group of musicians. “It’s going to be a very intimate and personal experience for my fans this time.” I caught up with Elaine at her home in Cannes, in the South of France and I asked her to describe the setting. “Well, I’m sitting on my terrace overlooking a green park with views of lawns. Beyond the parkland, I can look further out to sea and towards the Lérins Islands, which are about half a mile off shore. There are birds swooping high above me in the clear, blue skies. It’s warm and I’ve been sunbathing just before talking to you.” Her last solo tour was in 2014. The sell-out celebratory concerts encompassed her incredible fifty year career and saw her say farewell to a full touring schedule.
“When I did my fiftieth anniversary I was so tired at the end of it and I got ill. I think it was just too much. I took some time out as I was feeling kind of stale. Sometimes I think it’s just as important to wait and to jump off the treadmill to get your creativity back. I’m hoping the idea for this new kind of tour will work as it’s a bit new. It’s a challenge and something new for me too.” The idea of this latest tour is to create a series of ‘weekend concerts.’ The music, chosen by Elaine, is to celebrate her favourite songwriters. “It’s a brand new show celebrating the contemporary songwriters I love such as Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Jim Webb, Burt Bacharach, Leonard Cohen, Sting, Elton John, Lennon and McCartney … the list goes on. Their music has been the soundtrack to all our lives, not just mine. It’s the ideal opportunity to perform in an intimate way … I recently played the Royal Albert Hall with the sixty piece BBC Concert Orchestra. I’m doing these new shows with a handful of musicians and me, so simply ‘Stripped Back!” I asked Elaine how she decides which of their songs she’s going to feature later this year.
“I try to put together a show that I would like to go and see myself. As a singer, I enjoy singing ballads more than anything so I’m always a bit ballad-heavy. I start by making lists of my favourite songs and primarily songwriters. Having said that, it’s a task on its own; there are hundreds of their songs which I love. I’m inundated with lists of songs at the moment. My musical director and I spend literally hours and weeks trying to whittle the lists down. We look at which fifty songs and then which twenty-five and then we’re nearly home. But then we find Oh no there’s not enough up-tempo or funny songs to entertain the audience and you have to start again.” I wondered if there are certain songs which always have to make the list for every performance she does. “Yes there are certain songs. Over the past thirty years I’ve always made lists of songs. I find I write down the same song from one year to another. I think it’s because often songs touch you in some way and once they do that I find they never leave you. Ultimately I’m the one who has to sing them and therefore I have to love them to do that. I always have to do Memory although I’m working on a newer contemporary version of that song. I’ll probably do I Know Him So Well and also one or two from Sunset Boulevard – the obvious choices would be With One Look and It’s as if we Never said Goodbye but, who knows?”Buy Now