On Friday Owen and I went to the austere Cadogan Hall to see Shelby Lynne who was engaged in a mini-European tour. It's a rare performer that can make that place feel intimate but Shelby certainly did.
We last saw her in the autumn of 2008 when she was promoting her album of Dusty Springfield covers JUST A LITTLE LOVIN' and in my blog for that show I hoped she would come back soon - well two & a half years is better than seven years which was the gap before the Festival Hall gig!
For once at the Cadogan Hall, we had good seats in the centre of the third row which had me more than somewhat excited. The tour was just Shelby performing with her fellow-guitarist John Jackson but that only added to the quiet intensity of the show.
Shelby came on with her best tousled blonde, bed-head thing going on and wearing a grey tunic-style jacket that was soon disposed off and for nearly two hours played an overview of her six albums, from her 1999 breakthrough I AM SHELBY LYNNE to last year's TEARS, LIES AND ALIBIS.
She is a totally no-frills performer - her songs are best heard in this stripped-down style, emphasising her sometimes bleak, sometimes loving lyrics and similarly her persona is one of less-is-more, not for her the gushing nonsense of the standard American singer to London. She gives off the air of being watchful and guarded, for the first few songs I wondered was she going to speak at all!
But as the audience greeted each song louder than the last - and after she asked the lighting guy to turn the lights down "feels like I'm giving a piano recital up here", Shelby too started to open up, telling us the background to the songs or how soused or high she was at the time of writing it. Towards the end she said she truly appreciated how we were responding to her playing the songs acoustically as that was how they were written to be heard.
She even confided to us that she was not the only daughter of Alabama in the house as her sister Allison Moorer, a singer in her own right, was in the audience too which led into a tender version of her bayou lullaby WHERE I'M FROM. It was nice that she said it was a night she would remember for a long time.
Other highlights for me was the majestic YOUR LIES (the song that made me a fan), LEAVIN', KILLIN' KIND, ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU DISAPPEARED, WHY DIDN'T YOU CALL ME, IF I WERE SMART (was ecstatic she played this), WHERE AM I NOW, the exquisite JOHNNY MET JUNE and two thrilling covers of Dusty's I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT ANYMORE and YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME. A special mention must go to the subtle playing of John Jackson.
She finished her encore with a tender version of ICED TEA and with a big wave and a smile she was gone. I guess she won't be back anytime soon but I will definitely be there when she does.
The moody concert shots are by Shelby's fellow Facebook fan Anthony Burtenshaw.