On Saturday Owen and I saw Gabrielle at the Royal Festival Hall.
It was the first time I have seen her live despite being a fan since 1993, the start of her career when "Dreams" went to #1. It's one of the songs that most reminds me of the First Call parties which seemed a fortnightly occurrence at Molloy's. I bought most of her singles - and of course RISE - up to her Greatest Hits collection but somehow never felt the urge to see her live.
A new album ALWAYS has provoked this tour so it seemed a good opportunity to break the duck if only to celebrate her 15 years career, remarkable for a British female black singer - Beverley Knight's is slightly shorter as her first single came out two years after "Dreams".
On the whole I enjoyed it but there was something missing... that all-important wow factor. The fact she was obviously battling against a throat problem I guess was part of it. But I think the major contributing factor is that she doesn't really have a lot of stage presence. Certainly not enough to remove the dour feeling the Festival Hall always projects. Owen said afterwards that the set didn't seem to be sequenced right and I think that might also be true. She certainly has enough great songs but they didn't really seem to work well against each other so occasionally I thought "Ah another finely crafted mid-tempo pop/soul ballad... so soon after the last one". Oh and it didn't help having my view blocked for about three songs by some tall carthorse in a hidjus frock who stayed dancing in her aisle seat despite her friends going down to dance by the stage - cheers.
The set list was:
Show Me Love (an odd choice as it kept the audience firmly rooted in it's seats) - I Remember - Sunshine - Ten Years Time - Every Little Teardrop - When A Woman - Tell Me What You Dream - Why - Out Of Reach - Give and Take - Falling - Heartbreaker - Fallen Angel - Always - Rise - Give Me A Little More Time; encore: Closure - Dreams
Sadly no room for two huge favourites of mine "If You Really Cared" and "If You Ever" (I am sure she could have managed without East 17!) but it was good to bounce about in my seat to "When A Woman" and "Falling". Now here's the thing... I have just listened to those songs while typing and had to stop to sing along and do full Supremes/Vandellas/Marvellettes/Velvelettes moves... but in the gig... no. Singing and bouncing in seat. I put it down to being in a section of seated punters allied to the Festival Hall's lack of atmo and maybe a touch of underwhelming stage presence.
But "Dreams" got everyone to their feet and rightly so... it's a magnificent song. It also includes one of my favourite 'moments' - occasionally a song has a moment in it that always remind you of the first time you heard it. "Dreams" has one for me: when Gabrielle sings the last line of the bridge "So hold me so tiiiiight" the strings swell up and carry you into the end of the song. Gets me every time!