Live Review: Katie Melua – Thursday 5th May 2011 – Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK
Since early 2003 Georgian-British singer-songwriter Katie Melua has been riding high on the waves of acclaim and worldwide adoration. The syrupy voiced starlet has been busy for the best part of the last decade releasing a commendable catologue of groundbreaking records and building an impressive string of hits including Nine Million Bicycles In Beijing, Call Off The Search and the phenomenal The Closest Thing To Crazy and in the process has gained recognition the world over and built an enormous fan base of dedicated and loyal followers.
Last year Melua changed direction in her jazz rooted musical path and decided to part ways with long time collaborator Mike Batt, who had taken the singer under his experienced wing back at the beginning of her career, and trade in the long time union for a more pop orientated path that spawned her latest record titled The House, working with A-list musicians and producers including Guy Chambers (Robbie Williams, Texas) and William Orbit (Madonna). The move has been the perfect stepping stone for Melua and has opened her up to wider audience whilst staying true to her jazz roots throughout the record and her weighty fan base.
Since the release of The House, Melua has compiled a hectic schedule of promotional activities and dates around the globe promoting the release of the record. With the singers original UK tour dates being postponed last year due to such a lifestyle crippling the singer with exhaustion the crowd flocked to London’s Hammersmith Apollo on Thursday night to trade in their original tickets to see the songstress fulfill her commitments of showing off her incredible talents to her London fans.
With the buzz growing in the venue the lights dimmed and Katie took to the stage just after 20.45pm to a hollering yet collected crowd of mainly 40 somethings with a splashing of youth dotted amongst them. The stage was set to a gorgeous jazz backdrop, a grand piano, one of Katie’s signature instruments, sitting to the left of the stage.
Standing at the top of a raised stage platform Melua went straight into her signature number, The Closest Thing To Crazy. Crisp and pitch perfect the singer gave a breathtaking performance of the track as she stood solitary with only the help of her guitar before closing the number to an erupting applause from the crowd and stepping down to welcome her four piece band and jump straight into Just Like Heaven with its complimenting Spanish style guitar picking and a gorgeous sunflower yellow lit backdrop.
Melua then gave the audience a very sincere apology for the postponement of the evenings performance and expressed her appreciation for the crowds patience and attendance before promising us a night of old and new numbers taken from her extensive catalogue.
If You Were A Sailboat then took over with a lovely pieced together backdrop of a moonlit night at sea on the back wall with a sailboat drifting across the screen behind the band. This was one of the highlight tracks where Melua’s voice resonated with beauty and splendor, her vibrato carried strongly throughout the track and gelling perfectly with her bands solid instrumentation.
The House’s lead single, The Flood, took the set lists reigns at this point and not only were we dished up with an incredible vocal performance by Melua who set her guitar to one side and looked like the perfect pop princess but we also got an erotic eyeful courtesy of the singers video for the track which played on the stage screen distracting us with a collection of glossy, well oiled war-dancing muscle men.
With eighties Nintendo inspired space invaders bouncing around behind the band Tiny Alien offered us a slightly heavier rock chorus addition to the set before one of new records more humorous but also serious numbers, I’d Love To Kill You With A Kiss gave the night a darker feel. Described by Melua as a song about wanting the other person in a previous one way relationship break up to know the pain they caused her the track which was performed semi acoustically with a light yet haunting Americana synth backing, lyrically depicting ways in which Melua would like to take out her revenge on her past lover.
Throughout the middle section of the performance Melua gave us a perfect offering of the double bass heavy A Moment Of Madness where the singer gave a very theatrical and seductive prancing of the stage. The One I Love Is Gone, with its thick Americana twang and haunting lyrics proved to be the clear standout on the set with Melua’s vocals raising the arm hairs of everyone in the venue as her chilling tone told the story of heartbreak and love lost with a gentle yet highly effective slow guitar strum.
Perfect Circle proved to be the most upbeat within the set and gave her fellow band members, most notably her guitarist and pianist, the opportunity for a musical workout as they showed off with enthusiasm their gift at their craft while Lilac Wine, another solo number for Melua, showed a rich and heartfelt inclusion performed in agonizing beauty.
As a gift to her London fans Katie then introduced fellow singer-songwriter Beth Rowley to the stage to duet with her on What A Wonderful World, previously a duet between Melua and the late Eva Cassidy. Passing sections vocally between each other around a syrupy piano built melody their uniformed harmonies and both singers vocal blessings turned out to be a sublime, unexpected treat.
A further cover was thrown in at this point. Going Up The Country, originally a track made famous by Canned Heat, offered us a Rock’n’Roll addition before God On The Drums, Devil On The Bass presented some impressively created screen animation turning her bassist and drummer into silhouetted enemies.
The House and Red Balloons, a track dedicated to her co-writing friend in the crowd were light inclusions as well as the commercially friendly Plague of Love before one of the singers earliest and most recognizable numbers, Call Off The Search was given the biggest applause of the set with its heart-wrenching and striking lyrics of devotion.
Twisted, one of my personal favorites on the record was placed in the latter half of the set. This one is Melua at her pop best and is a very different style to what Melua usually offers us but was a welcoming addition to the night as well as the following A Happy Place with its quick delivered verse lashings and swaying chorus’.
As bubbles of dry ice began to fall like balloons from the ceiling above Melua, My Aphrodisiac Is You was performed before the singer and her band left the stage to prepare for their encore.
Within moments the band returned to the stage to perform a three track encore which included the amazing Nine Million Bicycles In Beijing, a cover of Janis Joplin’s hippie heavy blues number Kosmic Blues and the closing I Cried For You where the singer was given a standing ovation and vanished into the dry ice heavy backstage.
The night was perfect in every way. The talent was thick and rich from both Melua and her experienced band and the set proved to be one that a Melua fan dreams of with all but one number from The House being performed as well as all of the singers previous hits that have made her the nations musical sweetheart making an appearance.