One of the harshest gig segues in this blog, from last time’s Dinosaur Jr at the Arts Club to X Factor veteran Rebecca Ferguson at the Phil – certainly my oddest pairing of consecutive gigs since Wet Wet Wet was followed by Joanna Newsom earlier this year.
After a minor delay with the Boy Wonder’s babysitter, My Beloved Wife and I headed into town by car, with the heavens opening on our way in. She got out at the Phil, handing over parking duties to me, which I fulfilled not too far away.
It’s probably worth stating at this point that this review is not as positive as my usual ones, largely because this wasn’t my choice or type of show (with the tickets being a Christmas present for MBW). Plenty of people enjoyed the evening, and good on them. But this really wasn’t for me, so if you take offence at me not rating the performers then feel free to stop reading already!
He was a chirpy presence, but one I found slightly annoying. His soul-tinged boy band-esque pop just didn’t do all that much for me, with his puppy dog enthusiasm and all-round musicianship not helping.
His partially off-mike singing on his opening number also slightly grated with me, which I realise is rather petty. He performed quite a good (synth) piano solo towards the end of a song that he announced was available for free by texting a certain number.
He then played Life Is Real off his new debut album The Time It Takes, introducing it as one he had written (I think) at age eleven! This song reminded me very much of Cat Stevens’ Wild World, from his 1970 album Tea For The Tillerman. Max performed his own sax solo on this, as well as the final song, new single No.
As none of his music is (yet) on Spotify, here’s the video for No:
During the interval, I saw him signing autographs for a small queue – I found it quite funny to see him still with sax around his neck, but maybe that’s just me. I can see him becoming a bit of a housewives’ favourite – kind of a less jazzy Jamie Cullum, but sadly it wasn’t for me.
The interval music included some Whitney Houston, with the sound being pumped up for How Will I Know, which was the last song before Rebecca Ferguson hit the stage – quite a ballsy track for a singer like her to try to outdo.
Most of her set came from either this year’s new album Superwoman or debut Heaven from 2011, with very little off 2013’s Freedom and nothing at all from the Lady Sings The Blues record of songs made famous by Billie Holiday.
I’d listened to quite a lot of her stuff on Spotify, as well as digging out My Beloved Wife’s copy of the debut album, so was reasonably familiar with much of the set. Unfortunately, although she clearly has a very good voice and the songs are generally well written, it’s all too polished for my tastes.
It was therefore even more disappointing that she performed nothing off the covers album. Although she’s clearly not on the level of the likes of Billie Holiday, I’d still have liked to hear some of those tunes live as they are such great songs.
She gave lengthy spoken intros to a couple of songs, revealing herself to be less of a polished showbiz presence than many others who step on the same stage – more genuine and down to earth, and all the better for that.
After Heaven’s Teach Me How To Be Loved there was a rather out of context blues guitar solo while Ferguson left the stage to shed her coat, re-emerging to give full voice to the new album’s title track, really coming across as though this song meant a lot to her.
She wandered off again soon afterwards as her two backing singers took the lead on a number, returning in a dress this time. The subsequent version of Nothing’s Real But Love, her first single from 2011, was rather subdued, sadly.
The songs continued, but mostly left me rather cold. We actually left shortly before the end, due to some logistical issues. Fortunately, the weather had cleared up by this point.
We didn’t feel it too much of a hardship to miss the end of the show, as it just hadn’t quite resonated with us, not that I was expecting it to move me all that much. Back to gigs of my choosing next time on this blog…
I wore my yellow Stax Records t-shirt (under a jumper) to honour some real classic soul music, and was not at all surprised to fail to spot a single other band tee in the audience.
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Here is the music from the night on Spotify: