Live Music Reviews

Finley Quaye + Amy Winehouse @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

13 November 2003


After storming onto thescene with his summery, reggae-influenced dbut album, Maverick A Strike,Finley Quaye fell into a downward spiral that involved drugs, violence andthe obligatory stint at the Priory Clinic. Now music’s bad boy is back with new material, a newsound and a show at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire. But has all beenforgiven and is Finley back for good this time?

Supporting Quaye was 20 year-old singer-songwriterAmy Winehouse, whose performance was let down by poor sound. The promisingyoungster evidently has a powerful voice but it came across asharsh-sounding at this gig. She achieved a more pleasant tone when she wassinging low-key numbers rather than the belters.

Both her material, whichwas a blend of jazz, pop and funk with a splash of reggae, and her voice,were reminiscent of a jazz Nelly Furtado. However, her brass sectioncould go a little easier on the predictable sax solos. Her album Frank has received buckets of praise so it may be in the studio where this artistreally flourishes – at just 20 she has loads of time to polish her liveperformance.

Quaye, on the other hand, performed like a seasonedprofessional although a little more interaction with the audience wouldn’thave gone amiss. It was the Maverick A Strike material that the mature,subdued audience had come along for and Quaye wisely slotted the biggesthits, Sun Is Shining and Even After All, early into the set. Thefamiliar intro of the former was greeted warmly and Quaye played it like acomfortable pair of slippers.

But this gig was about moving on from the past andQuaye was eager to showcase the new material, which is darker, rockier andhas ditched the reggae feel. The atmospheric Dice, taken from the new Much More Than Love album, achieved a suitable level of emotion in itslive incarnation.

There is no questioning the talent of Finley Quaye.The diversity and individuality of his music was demonstrated through andthrough, as was the sheer beauty of his voice that has often beenovershadowed by his bad-boy behaviour and arrogance. But what Quaye failedto do was connect to his audience, which resulted in a lack of atmosphere.

Finley Quaye is a true British talent but whetherhe will be back for good will depend on whether he can be forgiven for hispast. This performance demonstrated that it takes a lot more thanability to win fans.


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