Amy Winehouse: no shrinking violet
Review: Amy Winehouse
14 November at Koko, Camden
London's favourite dark-haired, soul-drenched diva makes a welcome return to the limelight, watched by our reviewer Talia Kraines. Read YOUR comments below...
It's been an odd few months for Amy Winehouse. Since we last heard her, thanks to the Mercury-nominated Frank, she's dropped in weight, her hair has grown to Russell Brand levels of back-combing and tattoos have become her favourite thing.
Top this off with all those "I saw her rolling out of the pub" stories currently doing the rounds and a disastrous, slurring performance on The Charlotte Church Show (Youtube is your friend), and we were wondering just what to expect from a live performance from our favourite north London Jewish Princess.
Her big calling card of course is her new, sophomore attempt Back To Black, which loses the nu-jazz leanings of her previous material and quashes any silly comparisons with Katie Melua and her ilk.
Instead, this instant classic of an album was written with Amy wanting to recapture the sound of "girl groups from the 50s and 60s". And boy, does she do that in spades.
Determined to "get the old ones out of the way first", the Ivor Novello award-winning Stronger Than Me immediately makes us wonder how this raspy, mature belter of a voice is coming from such a tiny girl.
The massive hair is there, but Amy herself is in a teeny black flowery dress which she keeps turning up, just like you used to do with your skirt at school.
Playing this sold-out homecoming gig in Camden is her first topic of conversation and with her family crammed into the VIP box, it's obvious she feels very humbled to be here, even joking about wanting to "do a residency at Koko every week".
Flanked by a band in pyjamas and backing singers dressed immaculately in blue as 50s doo-woppers, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that most of tonight's audience are more than devotees.
With lead single Rehab blasting its way into the charts, Mark Ronson's production has added a glamorous hip-hop beat to most of her Motown-inspired numbers and never is this more obvious than on the glorious second single, You Know I'm No Good, sounding here more Brooklyn than Camden.
Winehouse: vulnerable behind the beehive
Title track, the dark Back to Black is undoubtedly the jewel in the album's crown with its melancholy, staccato piano transporting you to a smoky, dingy soul club in the 60s, the kind that none of us are old enough to actually remember.
While the almost unbearably hip-swinging Me and Mr Jones (it's not a cover, if you think about it) and the gloriously confident My Tears Dry On Their Own are handled with the sass and attitude we've come to expect, Back to Black is filled with heartache.
And there's more: one of tonight's three encore songs, the spine-chilling Love is A Losing Game really lets us see the vulnerability behind the beehive.
An unequivocal triumph then. But how could tonight be anything less? The larger question is why La Winehouse is perceived to be toiling in the shadow of paler counterparts such as Joss Stone, Corrine Bailey Rae and Lily Allen.
The former Sylvia Young Stage School pupil has got the attitude and the songs to deserve more attention than she gets. Right now, no one else is doing desire and emotion as well as her. Lap it up.
last updated: 23/07/07
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