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Eddi Reader Shepherd's Bush Empire
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The Independent Culture
A strange thing about Sadenia Reader: she inspires chronic irritation, half the people you know can't stand her, you think you feel the same way - then you watch her set and get sucked in. Part of the problem is that Eddi's blessings are curses, too: a spectacular, fluid voice, so capable it condemns her to an almost pedestrian beauty, a musical backstory that includes the wretched "Perfect", her mammoth hit with Fairground Attraction. When that band split Reader, who grew up in a Glasgow tenement, went into a well-publicised decline. Her marriage collapsed, she lost custody of her sons to her French-Algerian husband, she started drinking and popping Prozac, and her touching, angst-filled solo album Patience of Angels got remaindered, though it won her a 1994 Brit.

Things have changed. Whether that's because the personal life's more sorted, or that she's out the other side of therapy, tonight Reader is a whirling, upbeat, wild thing. Sporting a tiara, shiny trousers with sunflowers attached, and Bjorkishly glittering eyelids, she flirts shamelessly with her audience. She romps, leaps off monitors, wiggles her hips, then lies down by the drum stack and bellows, supine, into a hand-held mike, tapping time with a bare foot. She says, "I'm going to have to turn myself on, since you're stuffy Londoners" and, fiddling inside a fluffy top that could be half a pink mushroom, she clicks a switch and the jumper starts flashing. Reader and her voice seem hyper, almost schizo. One minute, she delivers something flawlessly languid - the regretful ballad "Semi- Precious", all pedal steel guitar and wistful country pining, her breathiness and tonal swoops an unnerving blend of kd lang and Jane Siberry. The next, she's muddying the vocal, howling and shrieking like Ari Upp. Some of it just doesn't work - the Middle Eastern promise of "Butterfly Jar", features a cacophony of bizarre jazz breaks, Eddi scatting samples of "Fly Me to the Moon", Patsy Klein's "Crazy" and the miserable, Kurt Weill- ish "Is That All There Is?" - but at least she's trying some brazen adventure. And when that pays off - a version of Tim Buckley's "Dolphins": waves of subterranean keyboards, and Reader half Joni Mitchell, half Aqua Marina - it does so formidably.

This evening, she goes from Salsa to mandolin-heavy country-blues, from soignee chanteuse to skankin' babe, backed by ex-Bible man Boo Hewerdine's down and dirty guitar and macho sensitivity. We get Gene Pitney's grim "Town Without Pity" ("I was doin' a virtual strip then, did you notice?") plus the rest of new LP Candyfloss and Medicine, and, of course, the wretched "Perfect", effectively sent up. ("Och, this is sad but true, every time I sing this, I want to do a poo.") After what feels like about 10 minutes, she roars, "Y'know, you've been here an hour and a half. So would you just piss off?" Like any true diva, seriously wired.

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