Live Review: Claire Richards – 6th December 2018 – Union Chapel, London, UK
As one fifth of pop outfit Steps, there isn’t much Claire Richards has yet to achieve when it comes to musical accomplishments. Throughout the nineties the lead singer of the group basked in number ones, enormously successful tours and found accolades around every corner of the five-pieces journey together. Since reforming in 2017, that success has continued with the UK’s love of nostalgia and the uplifting camp pop hits turned out by the act still burning bright. Despite being the member of the group that was always expected to strike solo gold after the bands initial break up, no solo career was ever produced by Richards; a record with fellow band-mate, H, was the closest Richards came to a recording career outside of the group.
With Steps currently enjoying a well deserved break from touring, the pop icon has now put her focus on her first solo record, titled My Wildest Dreams and to be released in February and has been busy over the past couple of weeks promoting new songs on the road for fans.
The pop singer wrapped up her first ever solo tour of the UK on Thursday night with a performance within the gorgeous walls of North London’s Union Chapel. With tea candles glowing throughout the venue and blossoms perched on stage and around the singers glowing initials, Richards appeared on stage at 9pm sharp to a deafening applause from fans that ranged in age; some sporting Steps tour t-shirts as they shouted for the stars attention with “we love you’s” in the quietest of set moments.
Over the course of 90 phenomenal, and at times emotional minutes we were treated to songs from the singers upcoming solo record; each carrying a radio friendly quality to them and drenched with the singers signature belting that could give Celine Dion a run for her money.
Dressed in a black top with a bellowing white polka dot dress filling the stage, opening numbers 7 Billion, End Before We Start and title track My Wildest Dreams gave the audience the first taste of what’s to come on the upcoming release; each a memorable power ballad sung effortlessly by Richards as her backing singer duo complimented the tracks with their softer tones.
Knowing her Steps fans in the crowd would want to hear a song or two from the bands repertoire – or as Claire phrased it “as some of you know I do have a day job”, referring to her successful role in the pop outfit – a pair were dished up during the set to quench our thirst with One For Sorrow and Deeper Shade of Blue being given a stripped back makeover for the tour; the latter reinvented as a mellow, island themed, almost Spanish number as Richards sat on a stool and her backing band guided her through the former upbeat pop juggernaut.
While most of the tracks fell into power ballad territory, Richards threw in the odd uptempo addition to break things up with a cover of Shawn Mendes’ In My Blood, which the singer recently recorded as part of the latest Radio 2 cover series, and a dancefloor worthy Shame On You from her upcoming release finding its place at the end of the set. Standing ovations were dished up following her performance of the H & Claire hit All Out Of Love, the Biff Stannard (of Spice Girls songwriting fame) penned Ruins and a flawless rendition of Lady Gaga’s I’ll Never Love Again from A Star Is Born bringing the pop star and many fans in the crowd to tears as her voice filled the intimate performance space.
A two song encore saw Richards tear the roof off the quaint chapel with a stellar cover of River Deep Mountain High which had everyone in the venue on their feet and dancing following the singers story of selecting the song on her way to her Steps audition in May of 1997 and admitting to not singing the track since that audition day until this latest run of solo dates. The closing track honours then went to the new records lead single, On My Own which was delivered with Richards fighting to hold back the tears of appreciation for the tour, her fans and her bands mates as the tour came to an end – at one point needing to stop to pull herself together.
Thursday’s performance was nothing short of phenomenal and everything we ever hoped for from a pop star of her calibre. Richards proved she is easily capable of carrying a 5 star spectacle on her own and now has more than enough songs under her belt to be able to hit the road on her own going forward. Claire Richards is a tour de force of vocal talent and was gushing with appreciation to her fans throughout the set during the final tour performance and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the singer departed the stage with her two children who congratulated the popstar with a bouquet of flowers.
End Before We Start
My Wildest Dreams
One for Sorrow (Steps song)
All Out of Love (H & Claire song)
I’ll Never Love Again (Lady Gaga cover)
Deeper Shade of Blue (Steps song)
In My Blood (Shawn Mendes cover)
Don’t Leave Me In This Love Alone
Shame On You
River Deep Mountain High (Ike & Tina Turner cover)
On My Own