Katie Melua - Live at the 02 Arena

2009-07-17 16:52
 
Live at the 02 Arena
 

On her debut live album Katie Melua straddles the first two alternatives. Given the rather bipolar blueprint of her multi-platinum selling songbook Call of the Search, Piece by Piece and Pictures this is a nifty move.

From the moment the Georgian-born, British-raised brunette bombshell saves her own "Piece By Piece" from its original off Broadway ballad hell with a simple, slow burning electric guitar strum you know something's up. Granted she sounds pretty coy on the album version, but here her siren call sounds almost supernaturally sexy. It’s spooky stuff.

Such an erotic opening gambit seems to scare Katie herself actually, who scurries back to the falsetto vocal comforts of a slow-mo piano rendition of folk fave "Lilac Wine" that’s so languid you'd be forgiven for thinking you were listening to a cover of one of those blank 60s pop ingénues such as Sandie Shaw. She continues to stumble for grace, her traditional Georgian-language folk fave "Yellow Leaves" is a piano lullaby that's so limpid you’ll start fantasising about getting lost in one of those 'exotic' Eurovision competition translations.

Thankfully, they’re momentary lapses of reason though. Rhythm 'n bluesy romps through "Aphrodisiac" (hony tonk piano anyone?), British blues god John Mayall's "Crawling Up a Hill" and "Mockingbird Song" prove what most fans will probably already know: rather than the lounge jazzy pop pigeonhole she invariably finds herself in, Katie fancies herself as a bit of a blues babe. Yes, yes, while the threesome is more comfortably bruised than bona fide blue, she's clearly got an affinity for those bottom of the bottle moments, as she proves in a boozy late night jazzy vamp of Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s standard "Blues in the Night".

So it's a real pity that she avoids reanimating "Mary Pickford" and "If I Were a Sailboat" off her last studio outing, Pictures beyond their original quirky novelty ditty and soothingly blank symphonic pop wallpaper contexts. And the cod-reggae "Ghost Town" is best forgotten. "Perfect Circle" works a whole lot better, its blues 'n bossa guitar roots providing a potent counterfoil for a dusty Americana revamp of "Scary Films" that allows Katie to do what she does best: purr and prowl without coming across as a camp Kate Bush.

All of which recasts her smash hit finale in an unexpectedly different light. She has no problems unzipping the chamber pop come-on at the core of ex-mentor Mike Batt's breakthrough hit "Closest Thing". Not even a cheesy flute solo can spoil a breezy-to-the-point of blissful rendition of "Nine Million Bicycles". And it's the bordello blues ache of alternately barnstorming and slow burning interpretations of Canned Heat’s "On the Road Again" and Janis Joplin's "Kozmic Blues" that lingers long after the insipid aftertaste of her own adult contemporary ballad weepie "I Cried for You".
There are three main options open to artists when recording a live album. First they do their dutiful best to please the adoring punters by belting out a karaoke cloned collection of their smash hits. Two - the artier, if more dangerous move - they actually bother challenging their listeners by 'reinventing' their songs. Or three, they toss the chord book in the dressing room bin and just have a huge jam.

preshen govender 2009/07/20 9:13 AM
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Great music to put babies to sleep
Dawn 2009/07/22 12:57 PM
Absolutely hautingly beautiful voice from a very beautiful young woman. I have all of her CDs and will definitely buy this one too.
t 2009/07/22 3:17 PM
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I'm so in-love with her music got all of her cd's.how can i think i'm standing strong yet feel thee air beneath my feet,that one is one of my favourites along with many more.geez girl you rock,may God bless you for Blessing my soul.
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