Singer/songwriter and LGBT activist Ezra Axelrod is a twenty-five year old American gay jew whose home is London and takes a rocking residency at the Leicester Square Theatre to showcase and launch his album Songs From An American Hotel. The show of twelve songs cover aspects of his life in hometown Le Grande, Oregon and tales from his extensive travels in South America and Europe. Largely focussing on coming out, lust, love and adventure, Ezra supplements the songs with short anecdotes, some explicit, others quite touching.
The show is set in Ezra’s bland $35 per night motel room. His band bang on the door, Axelrod appears sporting only a towel to answer their knocking. Bass plus guitar, a drummer, a very capable female violinist and two supporting vocalists enter. Ezra, now dressed in briefs and looking very buff, gives a brief introduction, steps into a pair of tight fitting jeans and so the songs begin. They start with ‘Prayer From A Dressing Room’ and move through the album via gorgeous ballad ‘Father’ with elegant harmonies, from Tim Oxbrow and Dwayne Washington, and stunning violin accompaniment from Willemijn Steenbakkers. We hear of his porn-loving grandma in ‘Pornstars and Broken Hearts’ and his lust for a schoolteacher in ‘Around Here’, before the tender lyrics of an emotionally charged ‘10 Million Lights’. Tom Parsons demonstrates his exceptional skill on bass throughout and occasionally as vocalist. For me though, the haunting duet ‘Strangers’ proved to be a highlight of the evening.
Essentially a concert in an intimate setting, there is some narrative, often humorous, containing occasional choice language and explicit sexual references. The notion that the audience become part of the intimacy of Ezra’s show taking place in an American motel room is attractive in theory and having singers sat on a bed in the centre of the space serves this idea well, but the confines of a rather poky basement lounge of the LST makes for 65 people sat in very cramped conditions, some with restricted view - beware!
Ezra Axelrod is a proficient entertainer and musician, he has assembled a talented group of performers and his show works well as a song-cycle to promote the new album. However, the expected rock and theatre elements to the show are barely there and the anecdotes, while interesting, are largely unremarkable and thus serve only as fillers between songs. However, there is no doubt that this boy can sing, so go if that attracts you. Get to the venue early if you can and grab one of the stools by the bar, along the back wall or a chair at the very front otherwise you will find it a very uncomfortable interval-less eighty minutes.
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By Chris Simms
Runs until 3rd March 2012
Leicester Square Theatre Lounge WC2H