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Impressing with impressions

By Bindu Rai



It’s not every day that the legendary Dame Shirley Bassey compliments you by saying: “He can do me better than I can do myself”. But for ace impressionist and multi-talented singer, Joe Longthorne, it's all in a day’s work.
The British artist (pictured above), who has 21 platinum discs to his name, has impersonated more than a hundred of the world’s most famous singers – men and women.


The 53-year-old singer is performing in Dubai on Friday night in The Genius of Joe Longthorne concert at the Madinat Theatre, after successfully undergoing a bone marrow transplant for leukaemia.The artist takes time out of his busy schedule to chat to  Emirates Business.


Is this your first visit to Dubai?


Yes, this is my first visit and I am really looking forward to seeing everything first hand after everything I have heard from my friends.


What do you have in store for audiences in Dubai?


My show is a mixture of my impressions of great singers from different genres, a good bit of comedy and getting to know my audience. All this is done thanks to the support of some very good friends – my musicians.


What inspired your interest in impersonations? Is there a big market for it in the United Kingdom and internationally?


I have been blessed with the art of mimicry and as far back as I can remember, I was always caught impersonating friends, aunties, and schoolmasters. So it was a natural  progression that it became part of my stage performances.


My act is very popular internationally, but obviously it’s easier in the UK as everyone is aware of the stars I impersonate.


Do you have any celebrity favourites you impersonate?


Frank Sinatra, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Sammy Davis Jr, David Bowie and Pavarotti. All of them have their own uniqueness and it’s fun trying to put the whole persona together, not just their voice.


Are any new singers featured in your repertoire of voices?


I am always adding artists and new voices, and quite a few of the current singers feature in my repertoire. These include John Legend, Jamie Cullum and Liam Gallagher.


In retrospect, how do you feel about Shirley Bassey’s famous comment about your impersonation skills?


I feel very proud. She is a great lady and artist and having her voice with me on nearly every show is very comforting.


Have you completely recovered from cancer?


I am feeling very well and, touch wood, the bone marrow transplant has been successful. I will continue to tour because I love it; it’s a big part of my life.


Yes, I was a little nervous when I first took to the stage after my illness, but the reception to my comeback has been great.


Would you ever consider signing up for any reality shows such as Celebrity Big Brother?


No, I leave that for others to enjoy. But I might consider a show like Mastermind where my subject would be the life and times of Shirley Bassey.  
What is your opinion about young celebrities such as Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse who are more notorious for their off-stage exploits rather than their on-stage acts?


I feel for them because showbiz is not an easy business to be in. You have to keep your feet on the ground and have the support of friends and family around you.


- The Genius of Joe Longthorne, tonight at the Madinat Theatre. Tickets are priced at Dh350 and show starts at 8.30pm. 
Call: 04 366 6546