These are variety shows Jasper puts on each year for charity where the performers give their services for free and the lighting, sound, and stage people work for just a nominal fee. The Rock with Laughter Shows are usually over 4 nights, but the Christmas Crackers are only on for the one night and each year the shows are always sold out to capacity of 10,000 each night! This year we were given free flashlight keyrings as we came through the doors and to see 10,000 little lights twinkling like stars around the arena throughout the performance was fantastic!
Last night kicked off with Elkie Brookes with her backing band, who was fantastic. She sang Pearl's a Singer and Gasoline Alley and at one point held a note for what seemed like forever, and would have been amazing for anyone, but even more so given that she's now 63!
After a local comedian called Lee Wilson did his act (who did some very funny gags about Redditch - which anyone who's familiar with the traffic system there will appreciate) we had the great Rick Wakeman on keyboards,who appeared with Yes in the early years before having a solo career. He did a solo stint which included playing a medley of nursery rhymes in the style of various classical composers and then a rendition of Eleanor Rigby in the style of Prokofiev (brilliant!) before coming back later on in the show with a 'supergroup' including Bev Bevan, the drummer from ELO and Tony Iommi, lead guitarist in Black Sabbath as well as Dave Berry and Toyah Wilcox in an amazing costume with huge feathers protruding along her back who sang Sweet Child of Mine. There was also a surprise appearance by 'Ozzie Osbourne' :-) (Thanks to Clareh for the video, and she has lots more on YouTube - dont miss Rick Wakeman playing Eleonor Rigby, just superb!).
Closing the first half we had the great pleasure of seeing UB40, who were playing on their home turf, perform 3 of their biggest hits including Red, Red Wine and went down a real storm.
There was another great show stopping performance from Escala, the 4 girl group who appeared on Britains Got Talent last year and play electronic strings, 3 rather strange looking violins and a double bass (very similar to Bond). They looked and sounded amazing in very short sparkly gold dresses and did a set of at least 4 different tracks, including Palladio.
The comedians on the bill were Lee Wilson (mentioned earlier), Bobby Davro (who had driven up from Bristol after appearing in panto the same evening)and Lee Mack, who's in one of our favourite sitcoms, Not Going Out and also appears in They think it's all Over and Would I Lie to You. Bobby Davro had some great gags about his time in Eastenders and came up from London just for the show.
Also appearing on the bill were a troup from the Birmingham Royal Ballet, who were sadly depleted as 4 of their number were down with the flu.
The last act to appear was Roy Wood, who was particularly successful in the 1960s and 1970s as member and co-founder of the bands The Move, Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard. His songs included See My Baby Jive and Blackberry Way and the show finished with his famous I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day.
And of course Jasper Carrott was there to introduce the acts and act as compere throughout the show and nearly £200,000 was raised for hospice charities, many of them local.
As usual a great show and the lighting, sound system and side screens on either side of the stage seem to have been improved as well at the NEC. I'm sure they were HD quality the pictures were so good!
Can't wait for next year!