Women of the World, Royal Festival Hall, London
Tuesday 15 March 2011
"Women of the world, take over," the whimsical Scots bard Ivor Cutler once urged, his advice taken last Friday at a concert featuring women performers from different strata of the musical spectrum.
The slightly preachy tone of the event was a little jarring, though: only the timely intervention of the hilarious Muslim comedian Shazia Mirza saved proceedings from becoming like a convention of Prius owners. Her gag about shouting at a burqa-wearing woman through the letter-box – "see how she likes it!" – had the place in welcome stitches after a drab set by Kate Nash, whose mumbled he-said, she-said mockney narratives were like unwelcome overheard schoolgirl natter from the back of the bus.
The statuesque V V Brown wore what appeared to be a giant op-art crinoline loo-roll cover, and despite the traces of intrigue provided by the strings and marimba of her band, the way she dangled her tiny accordion just so betrayed the dominance of design over music in her work. The same couldn't be said of Annie Lennox, who opened the second half with a set of solo piano versions of her hits. Her ability to command the stage with just the depth and emotion of her voice was best demonstrated in a gorgeous version of Bob Marley's "Waiting in Vain", before the expected finale of "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves" had the audience on its feet, singing along.
Paloma Faith was as surprised as anyone that she got to close the show, but it was the right decision: her sassy appeal put some fun and froth into the occasion, with a set pared back to the standout cuts from Do You Want the Truth Or Something Beautiful? augmented by a couple of new numbers and a cover of Etta James's "At Last". The most impressive aspect was the standard of the new material, particularly a cheeky anthem about "Me and My Cellulite" which afforded the opportunity for some bravura burlesque bum-wiggling in her eye-catching, skin-tight leotard.
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