A Tribute to Leiber & Stoller, Hammersmith Apollo, London

Starry, starry nightmare
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The Independent Culture

These days teenage frustration is expressed in the crudest terms imaginable. No one's going to waste their life analysing the lyrics of Limp Bizkit (though that potential Nobel prizewinner Eminem is a different matter). But once, a long, long time ago (George VI was on the throne) Jerry Leib-er and Mike Stoller became rock's first famed writing partnership, penning literate and witty classics such as "On Broadway", "Stand By Me" and the immortal "Yakety Yak".

So what better way to commemorate their 50-year association than this extraordinary event to raise funds for Nordoff-Robbins music therapy. A veritable constellation of stars, including, yes, Edwin Starr will perform some of the team's best-known songs. You know an event promises something special when a breathless press release announces that "Hot Lips from M*A*S*H" is a late edition to a bill already boasting giants such as Tom Jones, Chris Rea and Brian Conley. (What? No Davro?)

The employment of the Blockheads rhythm section is a promising sign, but with comperes such as DIY superstore shill Neil Morrissey, reading off an autocue obviously bearing instructions such as "attempt sincerity", and a seemingly endless queue of has-beens such as Steve Harley, the lost Leo Sayer and Bob Geldof, the heart sinks. Mark Lamarr's "Framed" comprehensively beats Sir Bob's embarrassing Jagger impersonation on "Riot in Cell Block #9", a victory for comedy over commerce.

Such events are memorable, if at all, for truly surreal juxtapositions such as Stefanie Powers (who knows why?) introducing Heather Small's Bond-theme audition of "I (Who Have Nothing)", Barry McGuigan (ditto) welcoming Paul Carrack, or Jimmy Tarbuck (golf connection, obviously) praising Elkie Brooks.

Stranger still is Nasty Nick Cotton's rendition of "If You're Looking for Trouble". Oh yes, he is evil, don't mess around with him, even if he does look like a squat undertaker. The vile Brian Conley's "Yakety Yak" is just Cackety Cack however, a low spot matched only by the tributees' offering of their latest song, a collection of clichés so predictable it beggared belief that it was written by men once noted for verbal sharpness.

Still, Sam Brown's energetic "Saved" was terrific, and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour proved that everybody's got a little Elvis in them (except for Brian Conley, the anti-Elvis) with a lovely rendition of "Don't". Hot Lips turned out to be the movie's Sally Kellerman applying an appropriate, if bizarre Teutonic accent to the great "Is That All There Is?", Dietrich-style.

The crowd, old enough to still bother voting, soaked up Tom Jones's spirited bash at the lyrically bizarre "Jailhouse Rock" (Jerry Leiber has admitted he knew exactly what he was doing) and even laughed at Tarby's gags. Though no match for seeing the Eurovision Song Contest live, parts of this show will stay with me forever. I may need music therapy myself, and as is known, therapy can last a lifetime.

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