Alesha Dixon, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Life's a cabaret for the dancing queen
Tuesday 17 November 2009
Alesha Dixon has come a long way, and yet scepticism has never been that far behind. First, there was her decision to embark on a solo career following the demise of garage trio Mis-Teeq in 2005, which was muddied by doubts over her ability to hold a note. Dixon was mainly relegated to those ultra-speedy rap chats, tagged with the overused but ever-so-catchy "And away we go!". Then, when she was chosen by Pharrell to star in the N.E.R.D frontman's video for "She Wants to Move", it appeared her only input was to simply be the pretty young thing who could shake it like a Polaroid picture.
So, how seriously should Dixon be taken after being dropped by her label, only to revive her career through television? Now re-signed, she's picked up new devotees by way of a Strictly Come Dancing victory, and her subsequent gig as a judge on the show, which puts her in a position to rival her X Factor counterpart Cheryl Cole.
Judging from this solo show in London, glitzy from the outset and designed to have the most ambitious poppet from her school of pretty pop questioning their talents, she's out to kill doubts. And she achieves it from the moment she welcomes the crowd to the Alesha Show in all its cabaret-inspired glory. Joined by two backing singers, a pair of dancers and a four-piece band, Dixon's a firecracker, alternatively singing and rapping, and shimmying her way through a well-executed and energetic set. She's showcasing her re-released debut, and also demonstrating why, with two Top 10 singles under her belt, she deserves to be a lot further up the music industry food chain by now. Once described as Europe's answer to Beyoncé, she's certainly got that diva's ability to offer up some awesome rocky R&B highs, from "Let's Get Excited", "Breathe Slow" and "Cinderella Shoe", the latter interspersed with James Brown's "Sex Machine". "Chasing Ghosts" is another crowd-pleaser, its funky riffs accompanied by the singer on tambourine, throwing in flirty winks for effect.
Dixon's obviously a perfectionist. The musical accompaniment is kept spontaneously tight and her stage presence is almost blinding. For a pop vocalist, her voice is also extremely accomplished live, so if Dixon's nervous, she doesn't show it. Her only moment of weakness comes after reeling off a bunch of thank yous before momentarily tearing up. She later jokes, "I apologise for the stupid emotional thing, that's the price you pay for being a female." Yet, it's her girl power that makes her so captivating, whether she's headbanging her way through "Lipstick", paying a sensational tribute to Mis-Teeq or forcing middle-aged men to gleefully question whether they wash up (and indeed clean up) during the show's closer "The Boy Does Nothing". She's fabulous, and if tonight's show was an appeal to place her in the running to become this country's number-one all-singing, all-dancing British female pop act, she's succeeded.
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