Katie Melua, Hammersmith Apollo, London
A rich velvety voice on an empty stage fills the Apollo and is greeted with instant applause. "The Closest Thing to Crazy" opens the show, a tender track that the singer wraps her distinct vocals around.
With her tour being postponed last autumn – Melua taking a break due to health issues – the curly-locked singer is quiet and grateful as she addresses her audience, almost as if she didn't expect the patience of her fans. Notoriously private, there's something very raw about her and it translates to her music creations.
"The Flood" is a truly stunning track that reminds us why this girl is a multi-platinum artist. Potent and alluring, Katie's voice washes the room with her distinctive vocals causing spines to tingle.
The stage backdrop – a floor-to-ceiling screen – displays blinds that open and close, creating an intimate feeling of being in a room with her and her guitar. Indeed, one gentlemen sits with a pair of small binoculars staring at the Georgian-born beauty.
"I'd Like to Kill You" was written she explains, because "I really wanted the other person to feel a little bit of the pain they inflicted on me." It's tempting, with an unexpected darkness in the lyrics; "I'd love to kill you while you eat... I'd like to open up your skin". But no need to be afraid of Melua, she pins down that type of anguish that's washed in the same stream as madness.
There's a simplicity in the beauty of her voice and effortless guitar chords. It doesn't need fuss, the only frill being her lacy black skirt, matched with quirky boots that make those famous curls bounce as she walks.
It's a long set list, but the textured variety of Melua and the producer William Orbit's creations mean that audience doesn't so much as fidget in their seats.
"Tiny Alien" is strange, sweet and quirky, with Space Invaders graphics dancing on the screen behind, and her interpretation of Bill Monroe's "The One I Love Is Gone" brings a new grace to the bluegrass track.
She performs tracks from her new album with a loose sexy feel supported by an excellent band, then duetting with Beth Rowley for "What a Wonderful World", switching to the sexy tones of "My Aphrodisiac Is You", and a darker finish. "God on Drums, the Devil on the Bass" – and an angel on the microphone...
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