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Dave Robinson (kinitawowi) wrote,
@ 2006-01-31 00:49:00
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    Current mood:worried
    Current music:Katie Melua - Nine Million Bicycles

    Katie Melua - Live @ Manchester Evening News Arena, 27/1/06

    Please note that due to the intimate nature of tonight's performance - there will be no admittance to the arena bowl until there is a suitable applause break."

    That's the text of a sign that was blu-takked on pillars all around the MEN, and it perfectly illustrates the problem with Katie Melua. She's huge. Yes, she's very friendly, safe Radio 2 fodder, but she's got a massive following with it. Which means she's a highly marketable product. Which means the way to make as much money as possible off her is to stick her in 18,000 seater venues; and I'm sorry, but you will never, ever be able to be intimate with an audience in a venue that size. The 6,000 seater Apollo, maybe, but she'd need to do two nights to make that work; and she's only 21 and needs to be in bed by 11pm.

    What this all means is that the subtler, better, more introspective tracks better suited to her "honeyed" tones and listened to in quiet bedrooms are completely lost when stuck through an ear-shattering PA system to fill colossal arenas. Everyone was there for The Closest Thing To Crazy (obviously), and it just doesn't sound (or, more importantly, feel) right when it's amped up.

    Conversely, her odd few bouncy tracks (there are some there, believe me) work fairly well. An inspired version of Bobbie Gentry's Fancy was probably the true standout of the night, and Halfway Up The Hindu Kush bopped along well enough.

    As for the big vocal belters... ughhh. Turning up the microphones for subtle tracks like Blues In The Night is going to result in chronic earache when she hits the big note in the otherwise brilliant Spider's Web (new single, note; she's recording versions of it at every venue to pick a B-side). And it again illustrates the problem. While Katie's voice is big enough to fill arenas, her music really isn't.

    Finally, no analysis of Katie Melua is complete without a review of the bizarre array of covers on show. More than enough eyebrows were raised when people found The Cure's classic Just Like Heaven on her latest album. I've already mentioned Fancy; but we were also treated to Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (it could have been worse; it could have been The Shat), 19th Nervous Breakdown (not bad, although helped (as is so often the case) by the fact that I didn't know the original)...

    ... and Babylon Zoo's Spaceman.

    Opinion is divided as to whether this was any good or not, and again it depends on your feelings on the original. Personally, I found the original to be a piece of shockingly awful commercialistic crud that nobody would have given half a shit about if it hadn't been attached to a pair of jeans; so Melua is due some credit for being able to find some sort of heart and meaning in the otherwise nonsensical lyrics. Alternatively, you might like the original for being shamelessly daft and moan at Melua for trying to create meaning where there needn't be any. It's up to you.

    One more word on sequencing; I wish artists wouldn't wreck things with vanity projects. The Corrs' Talk On Corners would be an even better album if they finished it with No Good For Me instead of The Song That's More Important To Them, the Chieftains collaboration Little Wing; and Melua faces the same charge, wrapping up with the Eva Cassidy tribute Faraway Voice. At least The Closest Thing To Crazy was last song before the encore.

    Ultimately, I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. Without the intimacy Melua becomes little more than an hour and a half of music, which for the entrance fee (£27.50?!?) isn't really good enough. Take it somewhere smaller next time, girlie.

    Support: Alex McEwan, or One Man And His Mate Who Drums. Fairly bland, predictable fodder coming soon to an O.C. soundtrack near you.

    Shy Boy
    Nine Million Bicycles
    Blues In The Night
    Spider's Web
    Belfast (Penguins And Cats)
    Halfway Up The Hindu Kush
    Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
    Just Like Heaven
    Thankyou, Stars
    My Aphrodisiac Is You
    Call Off The Search
    Piece By Piece
    19th Nervous Breakdown
    On The Road Again
    Crawling Up A Hill
    The Closest Thing To Crazy
    Mockingbird Song
    Faraway Voice

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2006-02-01 09:53 (link)
Thank goodness you wrote the set-list down!

Also, I don't think we really saw enough of Alex McEwan to get a good idea of his work.

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