Beverley Knight, Royal Albert Hall, London
Music artists can be tweeted about, launch one CD and suffer a backlash in no time these days (see Lana Del Rey). Or they can take the route of Beverley Knight who, 17 years after she first appeared, is still going strong. Turns out there's a virtue in not being flavour of the month.
Touring to support her Soul UK album, Knight's one night in London, at the Albert Hall, was packed to the rafters with couples and gaggles of girls who knew every word of every song – hits like "Shoulda Woulda Coulda" and "Greatest Day" become singalongs with swaying arms from the front row to the gods. There's something rather endearing about it.
But Knight has an axe to grind, albeit in a hugely exuberant and lyrical way. British soul doesn't get anything like the recognition it deserves, she states (correctly); her new all-covers album goes some way to reacquainting us with such brilliant homegrown trailblazers as Soul II Soul's "Fairplay", and "Southern Freeez" by, er, Freeez. Tonight she bursts onto the stage, the very epitome of pocket dynamo, in black spandex trousers and stratospheric heels to belt out a combination of those cover versions and her own back catalogue.
It may be an odd comparison, but she reminds me of Prince as she shimmies – tiny and shiny – around the stage and turns tunes on a sixpence. He has that same razor-sharp connection with his band. This is at its zenith during an extended medley of hits from her seven ("eight if you include the Hits", she quips) albums. Knight shows the tenacity and talent that have earned her everything from Mobos to an MBE – "Shape of You" and "Soul Survivor" stand out.
Then it's back with another costume change – we've now had a clingy red dress, silver tunic and blue leather hotpants – and the up-tempo numbers that see dappled lighting flit over a pulsating crowd of dancing fans. But for this reviewer, her voice is never more lovely or powerful than on an encore cover version of George Michael's "One More Try".
X Factor curiosity Johnny Robinson is sitting in the stalls, perhaps hoping to get some pointers. If I was him, I'd have a long, hard think about a career in music. If Beverley Knight isn't a national treasure by now with her incredible voice, he hasn't got a hope in hell.
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