The Glee Club
Review by Mark Wakeman
I was delighted to get another chance to see Madeleine Peyroux in concert having seen her at Birmingham Town Hall back in 2013. This gig was also supposed to be there but was moved to the more intimate Glee Club. In the 2000’s the Glee Club was a great place to see new music when Markus Sargeant had a run of promoting some acts who have now gone on to become superstars there. Over recent years the venue had seemed to promote less live music around it’s main comedy business so this was a nice return to form for it.
Sadly again the Birmingham live scene didn’t draw a great crowd, even to see an artist of Madeleine’s quality and superb back catalogue. If people cannot support live music then acts such as Madeleine will just bypass the city on future tours.
Another great bonus was that the support was Emily Barker, an established Australian singer now residing in Stroud. Emily has been around for the best part of 20 years and has released several solo albums as well as being part of numerous other bands and collectives. I’ve been told by many people that see was worth seeing live and it was soon clear to see why. Armed only with an acoustic guitar Emily delivered a perfectly concise 30 minute support slot of 6 songs.
With a big body of work to choose from she was able to cherry pick her best cuts but they were certainly worth hearing. She opened with a new song Geography followed by perhaps her best known track Nostalgia which people will probably know as being the theme tune to the TV detective series Wallender. Emily was playing this song originally released on Despite The Snow, her 2008 collaboration with The Red Clay Halo at a House Concert about 8 years ago when the composer of Wallender’s incidental music heard it and got her to rerecord it for the TV series.
Blackbird from her debut solo album Photos.Fires.Fables from 2006 was well received as was her tribute to pioneering gospel performer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the heart rendering Sister Goodbye from her more recent 2017 album Sweet Kind of Blue. She then dropped in a new song Strange Weather which she had only written a month ago and concluded with Disappear another track from Despite The Snow.
Emily will be playing the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath on 29th October with Marry Waterson to promote this year’s joint album A Window to Other Ways.
Madeleine and her four-piece band arrived on stage at the early time of 8.45pm, this was due to them having an early flight to Europe the next morning. Madeleine who despite her name and music style isn’t actually French but from Athens, Georgia in USA was on great form, being far more chatty and witty than when I had seen her play before.
She opened with I’m Alright a song co-written with Larry Klein and late Steely Dan member Walter Becker from her 2006 album Half The Perfect World. This was followed by the excellent Our Lady of Pigalle from the 2009 Bare Bones album.
Madeleine seemed relaxed and on top form performing a song in French which she said was about sex adding “but aren’t all songs written in French”. The Beatles-esque On My Own from last year’s Anthem album was ironically preceded by the Stones-like guitar of the bluesy Down on Me.
She dropped in a superb cover of Willie Dixon’s blues standard If The Sea Was Whiskey allowing her excellent band to showcase their considerable talent, followed by All My Heroes another accomplished song from Anthem. She then slowed things down with an effortlessly beautiful cover of the iconic Moon River showcasing her wonderful voice. The title track to Anthem showed that Madeleine’s more recent material certainly holds it own against her acclaimed earlier work.
The band then briefly left the stage to allow Madeleine to perform a couple of solo songs including another song in French and 2004’s Don’t Cry Baby. The band returned for the homeward run beginning with Isn’t It a Lovely Day and then the crowd sing-along of Honey Party. Madeleine has always been equally at home as an interpreter of other people’s songs as well as performing her own and this couldn’t be better displayed than in her version of Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me To The End Of Love.
The show ended with the title track from her 2004 Careless Love album. This popular blues song allowed each member of the band to showcase their skills giving their own interpretation to various parts of the song to bring a superb concert to a conclusion by 10.00pm.