Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dee Dee Bridgewater

I saw Dee Dee Bridgewater at the Barbican on Friday, and she was awesome.

The show was titled To Billie Holiday with Love - A Celebration of Lady Day, with Bridgewater revisiting the character that gained her an Olivier Award nomination for the play Lady Day in the mid-1980s. There were no impressions, save for a brief speech, but the performance was consummate.

A Grammy and Tony Award winner, she almost failed to make the gig - the volcanic ash meant that her flight was cancelled and, despite saying in a recent interview that at nearly 60 years old touring had become an ordeal, Bridgewater endured a 14 hour minibus ride from Stuttgart to London. (Incidentally, US trumpeter Wallace Roney can't get to the UK and Bridgewater now can't get out, so she's taking his slot at Ronnie Scott's tonight and tomorrow.)

But she made it. As did her daughter, China Moses - a Parisian-born R&B singer and MTV presenter - who opened with a set dedicated to Dinah Washington. And thankfully so did Bridgewater's quintet, who were outstanding. Reeds man James Carter was particularly brilliant, taking songs by the scruff of the neck and thrilling the audience with blistering solos on soprano sax, tenor sax and flute.

But what about the lady herself? She was incredible. Bridgewater has an electrifying stage presence, a tremendously mercurial voice and a powerful, strident delivery. Every song was performed differently, each was absolutely mesmerising. The show was for one night only, so there's little point in recommending it now. But it really was good. You should've gone.

Set list included "Miss Brown To You", "Loverman", "God Bless the Child", "Don't Explain", "Them There Eyes", "A Foggy Day", "Mother's Son-in-Law", "You've Changed", "Fine and Mellow", "Strange Fruit" and "Lady Sings the Blues".

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