Nancy Sinatra, Royal Festival Hall, London

Why so long, babe?
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The Independent Culture

Thirty-eight years have passed since "These Boots Were Made For Walkin' " became a huge hit in the UK, yet Nancy Sinatra's performance at the Morrissey-curated Meltdown at the weekend was her first in England. Up until 1966, she was simply "Frank's daughter". But she would be defined thereafter by "that song", written and adapted for her by Lee Hazlewood, who transformed Sinatra's appeal by persuading her to sing at the deep end of her vocal range. After 22 chart hits and two albums with Hazlewood, Nancy retired from the music industry in 1972, but at 64 is making a storming comeback. "I'm Nancy. Let's get friendly," she drawls.

Thirty-eight years have passed since "These Boots Were Made For Walkin' " became a huge hit in the UK, yet Nancy Sinatra's performance at the Morrissey-curated Meltdown at the weekend was her first in England. Up until 1966, she was simply "Frank's daughter". But she would be defined thereafter by "that song", written and adapted for her by Lee Hazlewood, who transformed Sinatra's appeal by persuading her to sing at the deep end of her vocal range. After 22 chart hits and two albums with Hazlewood, Nancy retired from the music industry in 1972, but at 64 is making a storming comeback. "I'm Nancy. Let's get friendly," she drawls.

Dressed simply in black shirt and trousers, a mane of dyed-gold hair her only embellishment, Sinatra rather resembles a foxy Cheshire housewife, but she works the stage with all the energy and self-assurance of a rock goddess. She could bounce Beyoncé and her ilk into the orchestra pit. The low, almost masculine voice has lost none of its power yet has mellowed beautifully. This much is evident in her haunting opening number "Bang Bang", which Quentin Tarantino resurrected last year for the soundtrack of Kill Bill Vol 1. Sinatra has a strong youthful following - you need only scan the audience to see that - and Morrissey is just one of the lyricists recently to have paid tribute to her with a song, the aching "Let Me Kiss You", from his new album.

Touching as that may be, Nancy is not here as part of an ego-stroking exercise but to rock'n'roll in her own right. "Lightning's Girl" and "Drummer Man" are belted out against a sometimes over-vigorous five-piece backing band. "In Our Time" recalls the lifestyle and the vernacular of the Sixties (Sinatra can even deliver lines such as: "Holding hands at the Louvre/ used to be such a groove/ Now some take trips but never move" without sounding at all corny), and, as she sings "Good Time Girl", the highlights of her early movie career flash across a screen. There's Nancy posing in a bikini; Nancy riding pillion with Peter Fonda in The Wild Angels; and Nancy smooching Elvis in Speedway. ("Yes, he was a good kisser," she deadpans.) She's happily acknowledging her kitsch appeal: it's an image that has been superseded, but the one her followers really identify with. By the second bar of "These Boots Are Made For Walkin' '', dozens of them are on their feet kicking up a storm in their mini dresses, white leather go-go boots and bouffant wigs. (Some of the women have dressed up, too.)

Songs such as this one - along with the wonderful, still-infectious "Sugartown", "You Only Live Twice" and Hazlewood's bluesy "Friday's Child" - go down best, complementing Sinatra's sultry vocal style far better than the over-loud rock numbers. So relaxed is Nancy that she comes down off stage to wander the aisles as she sings. The fans are ecstatic and, for a worrying moment, the slight frame and bright blonde hair are almost submerged as they surround her. Pleas for more of Hazlewood's songs are sadly shrugged off: "You know I can't do those without Lee." Instead we get "Two Shots of Happy", a sentimental song written by Bono and The Edge about Frank, which brings a tear to his daughter's eye if to no one else's. But who wouldn't have loved to hear "Somethin' Stupid" tonight?

After two more tracks from the forthcoming tribute album To Nancy With Love, she wraps it up with "So Long, Babe". It's not enough for the crowd: another encore of "These Boots..." is the only way to say goodnight.

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