WHAT a special night at PizzaExpress Live In London’s Holborn on Thursday (March 10). A night when musicians, music lovers and organisers of music events came together and raised nearly £50,000 for the wonderful people of Ukraine. A fantastic effort. Our country, our people at their best.
Although the music was achingly beautiful (Steve Harley) and cheering (Howard Jones), this was a night when it took a back stage. Of course, we wept at some of Harley’s timeless and sublime ballads (a tender Compared With You) and tapped our feet to Jones’s What Is Love), but this was all about unwavering support for the Ukrainian people.
The night started with an auction skilfully managed by TV personality and antiques expert Caroline Hawley. Through a mix of gentle persuasion and arm twisting, she managed to auction a mix of wine, holidays and music tickets – in the process raising nearly £8,000. A pair of Liam Gallagher tickets were kindly donated by an anonymous member of the audience while we were later told that Steve Harley had donated a Gibson guitar to be raffled. Typical of the man. Gruff on the outside, kind within.
PizzaExpress Live excelled itself, doubling all the money raised from the night – and offering everyone present a year’s free membership to PizzaExpress Live. All the money raised will go to the British Red Cross DEC Ukraine Appeal, providing food, first aid, warm clothing and helping families stay in contact with each other. A justgiving page set up by PizzaExpress Live has already raised more than £18,000: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/pizzaexpress-fundraise-for-ukraine
Love was everywhere within the four walls of PizzaExpress Live’s Holborn venue – even bubbling to the fore when a slight altercation between Harley and members of the audience at the front chomping their way through pizzas could have got out a little bit out of hand. Harley was magnificent, leaving a bottle of bubbles for the three members to enjoy while listening to Jones. Note to anyone attending a Harley concert: eat as much of your food before he comes on to play his music, especially if you are in the front seats.
The night was originally meant to mark Harley’s start of a staggered six night stint at PizzaExpress Live Holborn, but because of the dire Ukraine situation, he decided to give Jones centre stage so as to raise funds for the Red Cross.
Although Harley was only on stage for 35 minutes, he demonstrated why his shows are always sell outs. His heart and soul goes into every song he sings, whether it’s a beautiful ballad (Friend For Life) or a hit from the 1970s (Make Me Smile).
He cares passionately about the music he has created – and rightly so. A perfectionist who has plied his trade for nearly 50 years as Cockney Rebel and then Steve Harley, writing a long trail of lyrics and unforgettable music along the way.
Mr Soft, Judy Teen and Mr Raffles (Man, It Was Mean) were all delivered with swashbuckling panache.
What a glorious hors d’oeuvre. The mains wasn’t bad either as the charismatic Howard Jones reminded us of the fabulous music he wrote that defined much of the 1980s. Songs such as What Is Love, No One Is To Blame, a sultry Hide And Seek (‘hope you find it in everything, everything that you see’), the quirky Specialty and a wonderful Things Can Only Get Better (a marvellous encore).
There was also a super Too Shy – a massive hit for Kajagoogoo. It brought a smile to the face of Nick Beggs on chapman stick who wrote the song for Kajagoogoo in the early 1980s.
Musical nights don’t get much better than this. A few tickets are available for Steve Harley’s shows. Grab one if you can. You will be in the presence of a musical genius.
If you want to donate to the British Red Cross DEC Ukraine Appeal (or bid for any of the items on PizzaExpress Live’s online auction), the links are: