Wolverhampton born and bred Beverley Knight played at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham to a local audience. I had never seen Beverley perform before, nor really listened to any of her music, so, along with the two support acts, this was going to be an experience. Fear not, I am not one to shy away from anything new!
Promoting her new solo album, The Eden Tree, the night began with a performance from Billie Godfrey, which featured songs from the album. The half an hour set, where Billie sang alone on stage to a backing track, also featured an impressive cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’, whom Billie counts as a major influence on her music. Billie was more than capable of working the crowd, although I felt it was a shame that the audience weren’t in to witness the warm tones of her vocals and impressive range she displayed. As a backing singer for Beverley Knight, she is certainly a lady who didn’t disappoint those lucky enough to get to see her perform.
Mamas Gun are certainly a band who know how to make an entrance. A five-piece group from London, who have an impressive range of musical styles from soul and blues, to funk, jazz and rock thrown in to the mix. ‘Finger On It’ reflected influences of James Brown and Michael Jackson, and are certainly worth looking out for. They even come with dance routines (admittedly, only a very basic side-to-side routine, but they did it with style)! The four part vocal harmonies show that these boys certainly have talent, and there is a hype surrounding them that suggest next year could be a breakthrough year for them. A wonderfully exciting and colourful band, who provided a brilliant set and really set the mood to prepare for the eagerly anticipated Beverley Knight.
Well. After the brilliant warm up acts, there was certainly a huge buzz in the air from the fans awaiting the start of the night. Not having listened to Beverley Knight before the show, I hadn’t prepared myself in any way at all. Going in with a completely clean slate, with no expectations, in my opinion, was the best way to get the most out of what was already a great night. During the interval, I began chatting to a neighbouring couple who told me that I should expect a fabulous lady with what can only be described as a Big Voice, who sings a range of soul, R’n’B, pop and rock numbers.
The stage was set for a four piece band and three backing vocalists, including Billie Godfrey who had delighted the crowd earlier. A cheeky, but well placed (and deserved as I later found) bit of self promotion lit the stage, proclaiming ‘100% (Beverley’s recent top 20 album) On Sale Here’.
Beverley Knight certainly didn’t stay in the shadows for long, after a dramatic entrance from her very well dressed band and backing singers. She exploded onto the stage, belting out ‘Keep This Fire Burning’ and really worked the crowd well. Boy, can she entertain! There was a real party atmosphere throughout the first few numbers, which was certainly influenced by her very infectious personality. An absolutely fabulous version of ‘Take a Little Piece of My Heart’ that Beverley successfully made her own, went down a treat.
The gorgeous ‘Beautiful Night’ brought the crowd down to a sway, as this ballad, amongst the others performed on the night, displayed her fantastic vocal range, and the allowed the performer inside to shine through.
The first of three outfit changes (Oh, those dresses!) allowed the talent of the band and backing vocalists to be shown off, and they held the audience’s attention with ease and really made their performance something to watch.
The ballads ‘Bare’ and ‘Gold’ were two of the most spectacular numbers of the night. The former was supported simply by a keyboard part, allowing the warm tones of Beverley’s voice to be revealed to their full intensity in a stunningly believable and heartfelt performance. The latter, the singer admitted to being a product of feeling very low and dedicated the song to her family in the audience. A very emotional, stripped down version of the song was performed. The rawness made the song incredibly moving and brought tears to the eyes of many in the room.
‘In Your Shoes’ changed the mood considerably, with Beverley getting the audience involved with a bit of call-and-answer singing. Beverley is clearly a fan of making it work from the diaphragm (you had to be there…)! The audience were worked up onto their feet again, and if it weren’t for the dizzying heights of the Grand Tier at the Symphony Hall, I may very well have joined in!
Local guitarist Paul Reid was well received in the encore, clearly with his own fanbase within the audience, and deservedly so. The relationship shown between the band, vocalists and the singer, who is commonly dubbed the Queen of Soul was wonderful to witness, as I have been many a performance where the main act has largely ignored their supporting artists. This was a fabulously refreshing change to see almost a family unit on stage.
The encore featured a stunning rendition of ‘Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda’ in which the singer really put her all into it, alongside the superb support from her backing singers. To put it simply, it works, and it works incredibly well. Clearly a lot of hard work and love had been put into the night.
It has to be said, it was a fantastic night watching a beautiful, bubbly local girl, strutting her stuff with such amazing energy in gorgeous shoes that shouldn’t be possible to stand in, never mind dance and work the stage in. Yet she makes it all look so easy, and still manages to hit every note comfortably and with such style. What a night, what a woman!
Review – Vanessa Austin
Photos – John Mason