On the Ball
~ The Belfast News Letter, 31/10/2003 by Jeff Magill~
LAST WEEK, the UK's most popular musical star Michael Ball
popped over to Belfast for a promotional appearance on the Kelly Show,
ahead of his concert in the city tonight.
While he was here, we phoned him for a quick chat about his new album,
A Love Story, which was released last week. As we talked to the singer,
he was being driven along the Sydenham Bypass, where he was shown the
Odyssey Arena (which he is playing tonight) and, judging by his reaction
on the phone, it's fair to say that he was a little overwhelmed by the
size of the venue.
"Oh my God, why did they put me in there? It's massive," he
said rather humbly.
In truth, it's unlikely that the 9,500-capacity arena will be fully opened
for Michael's show, but the singer is underestimating his appeal if he
thinks he can't shift a few thousand tickets.
For the best part of two decades, Michael Ball has been Britain's number
one musical star. After training in the Guilford School of Acting, he
won parts in productions of Godspell and Pirates Of Penzance, the latter
of which is where he was spotted by famous theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh.
Mackintosh offered him the role of Marius in the Royal Shakespeare Company's
production of Les Miserables and the rest, as they say, is history.
Les Miserables led to Andrew Lloyd Webber casting him as Raoul in the
Phantom Of The Opera in 1985 and then as Alex in Aspects Of Love. The
main song from Aspects Of Love, Love Changes Everything, went on to score
Michael his first Number One in the late 1980s and since then Michael
has appeared in countless musicals, released more than 10 albums, starred
in his own TV shows, sold out many UK tours (including a couple of sellout
shows in the Province), represented the UK at Eurovision and, most recently,
he went down a storm in the West End production of Chitty Chitty Bang
But of all Michael's work, the most interesting is perhaps his performance
in the one-man show Alone Together. A somewhat darker affair than Michael's
usual productions, the play focused on the life of an entertainer and
was told through song, with numbers used from acts as diverse as Radiohead,
Joni Mitchell, Segue and Gershwin.
Michael won critical acclaim for his performance in the show and was
so inspired by it's method of telling a story through song that he decided
to make an album under the same premise.
Thus, A Love Story, Michael's new album was born. The 12-track CD tells
the story of a relationship, from it's beginning to it's bitter end. The
album features songs from the likes of Robert Palmer (She Makes My Day),
Burt Bacarach (This Guy's In Love With You) and American singer Kenny
Chesney (You Had Me From Hello) and even includes a duet with Spanish
actor Antonio Banderas on the classic song Me and My Shadow. But while
the album gels together nicely as the story of a relationship unfolds,
Michael says that choosing the tracks for the album was no easy task.
"Choosing the songs was the hardest part. I quizzed everyone I knew
about the songs that meant something to them, whether it be when their
relationship went bad, the song they played at their wedding or songs
they like to dance to.
"We collected a vast catalogue of songs and then I asked myself
which songs spoke to me," he says. "Then the songs just came
One of the more enjoyable moments on the album is Michael's duet with
Antonio Banderas on the final track Me and My Shadow.
Michael became friends with Antonio after they met at the Andrew Lloyd
Webber's 50th birthday celebrations at the Albert Hall, at which Michael
literally gave Antonio the shirt off is back so that he could go on stage.
The incident led to a long-term friendship between the men and Michael
flew out to New York, where Antonio was starring in the Broadway show
Nine, to record Me And My Shadow.
But it seems the duet nearly didn't happen as, soon after Michael arrived
in New York, the famous Black Out hit the city, meaning the singer's recording
studio was inoperable.
"I got to New York on a Friday and, bang, the lights went out. Our
studio wasn't working, but we managed to find one that had all the computers
up and running and we recorded the song. I'm so proud o0f how it turned
"Afterwards, we went over to see Melanie [Griffith, Antonio's partner]
in Chicago and it was fantastic.
"I ended up sitting with Antonio and Melanie and couldn't even use
my phone to call anyone because it wasn't working.
"But it was an exciting three days in New York and everyone was
so nice to each other," says Michael.
Fans can expect to hear "the arch" of the A Love Story album
at his concert tonight when Michael will perform nearly 30 songs, including
many of the much-loved musical numbers fans have come to know him for.
Let's just hope the electricity stays on for this performance.
l Michael Ball plays the Odyssey Arena tonight. Tickets cost pounds 21-pounds
31 and are available from the Odyssey box office on 028 9073 9074.