BWW Review: ALED JONES AND RUSSELL WATSON, London Palladium
Either could likely fill the venue with their own headline shows, but - in a relaxed evening that's more pop-era than a completely classical affair - Jones and Watson showcase their unique blend of music and their decades-long friendship.
The evening's setlist is built around the pair's latest album, Back In Harmony. Their second studio album together couples the religious hymns synonymous with Jones and the operatic classical standards from Watson.
Opening with the new album's premier number, a rousing "Funiculi, Funicula" kicks off the night with typical Italian gusto, tackled by Watson without breaking a sweat.
A high-spirited singalong to the Gypsy Kings' "Volare" is juxtaposed with a rousing version of "The Impossible Dream" and a peaceful "The Lord Is My Shepherd". In an eclectic mix, there's something for everyone.
It's only a shame that there isn't more time made for more of the duo's numbers - with two lengthy musical interludes, a 25-minute interval and an underwhelming support act. The lighter, pop-inspired numbers are a real treat in the set, so a few more of these would be most welcome.
However, Watson and Jones clearly savour the occasion in the iconic venue, at ease in the spotlight and with each other. Their chat between songs is light and unscripted and their friendship is palpable - there are plenty of winks, laughs, and encouragement to hit the big notes.
The pair have a charm that is instantly likeable. Aled Jones, in particular, might be familiar to most people as a TV presenter, but his performance only proves his credentials as a national treasure.
Where Watson has the power in his vocals, Jones's voice sails through and delights - particularly in standards like "The Lord Bless and Keep You". Without any solo numbers, the pair showcase their harmonious blending for the whole concert.
Despite an eight-strong live band, they do rely heavily on booming backing tracks to accompany their sound, which is unnecessary when voices are strong enough to carry with a stripped-back live score that could so easily be achieved.
However, Jones and Watson have worked incredibly hard to retain a loyal fan base, and their Palladium concert is a testament to their talent and charm. Their coupling might not have been the most obvious pairing, but their live show proves just how brilliant an idea this duo is.
They will surely delight old fans and new on their UK tour. And, going by their chatter between songs, if the music ever stops they could keep themselves busy with a few stand-up gigs...