Despite having sold a shedload of albums to much acclaim over the past 15 years, mentions of Katie Melua in some circles still results in a trotting-out of the pervasive Dad joke relating to her curious lyrics about the number of bicycles in Beijing or how many million light years from the edge we are. What seems to be often overlooked is that Melua is a talented musician and an impassioned songwriter, and possesses an ethereally beautiful voice.
On her current tour she has been playing to sold out concert halls around Europe, and the intimate settings suit her style perfectly. Arriving on stage in the most festive of silver evening gowns, she kicked off the evening with the Georgian song If You Are So Beautiful from her most recent studio release In Winter. This weaves beautifully into the haunting Plane Song, although the whistling in the recording of the song is replaced by some expert and chilling tremolo by Melua’s brother Zurab on guitar.
As Melua trades guitars with her roadie at the side of the stage, which she does ever so gracefully throughout the show, we go right back to the roots of Melua’s career with a beautiful rendition of Belfast, the classic Nine Million Bicycles and the gorgeous Just Like Heaven. There are some simple, yet beautiful animated visuals as a backdrop from Karni & Saul.
For her cover of Joni Mitchell‘s River, Katie is accompanied by the Gori Women’s Choir. Their presence and effect is enchanting and glorious, yet never overblown, and the performance has shades of Why by Annie Lennox. The choir add euphoria and festivity to Dreams On Fire, and there is a stunning version of the Christmas carol O Holy Night. They then leave the stage as Melua gives us a powerful and divine interpretation of Diamonds Are Forever.
After the interval, the choir rejoin for the affecting Perfect World and the celestial The Little Sparrow, both from In Winter. Moving most of the crowd to tears, the choir then provide the most glorious backing to one of Melua’s best ballads I Cried For You. Melua then changes pace for a dramatic and resounding performance of The Flood, although the musicians come on a little too strong and this detracts a little from Melua’s vocal. She does regain full control with the incredible Closest Thing To Crazy and the sanguine Piece By Piece, and appears to end the show with her version of Black‘s Wonderful Life.
An encore in a live show is usually expected, but we have no idea what’s in store for us. As Melua takes the stage rejoined by the choir, they treat us to the most affecting version of Fields Of Gold and Melua gets her first standing ovation of the night. We are then given great promise with an electric performance of new song Maybe I Dreamt It. What truly brings the house down though is a magnificent and emotional rendering of What A Wonderful World. There is barely a dry eye left in the house and everyone is on their feet for a second time.
It all made for an enchanting evening spent in the company of a most accomplished artist. Katie Melua is simply spellbinding.