Live at City Varieties on Monday, 8th October 2001
Soul-kissed by Kiki
Call me old-fashioned but it's so refreshing to actually hear a singer just singing. At 54 Kiki Dee has been in the business for a while and still is in great shape. As Ali G might put it "I definitely would!" My own memories of her go back nearly 30 years. The under 25's among should be able to ask who Kiki Dee is. Her only Number 1 was 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' with Elton John way back in July 1976. The long hot summer!
I first had th great pleasure of seeing Kiki live in July 1995 when I went to see the gorgeous Vanessa-Mae's show at the Leeds Grande Theatre during her 'Red Hot Tour'. Kiki the was the unbilled support act. So, we older folk in effect had an additional show of our own. Two shows for the price of one ticket was nothing to complain about!
Kiki (born in Bradford as Pauline Matthews on March of 1947) in 2001 is still blessed with a voice most of our Top 40 constituents would flog their behinds for. There is a clarity, depth and level of emotion in her voice you might only find in the performers in the big shows in London and New York, or gracing the airwaves of Radio 2.
This was my first visit to the famous City Varieties and not a place I'd wish to visit again more than I have to. A definite need for refurbishment and new none-cramping seats. Sat in the Bar area, I was struck by the other audience membership. I felt both at odds and at home among the grey-haired and the fuller waistlines. The crowd was certainly from the easy-chair and easy listening generation. There was at least one Kenny Rogers Look-alike!
Of the seating capacity of hundreds, only around 80 tickets were sold, which I can only put down to a lack of good publicity. I had an up close and personal view from my D10 seat. As the playback aired Sheryl Crow, the Scholl and Specsavers consumers shunted in. Around 8.05pm the lights went down and on walked three University Challenge looking types to a muted and expectant lot. I was rather stunned at the lack of manners from the audience at not responding to the presence of folk on the stage. It could be that everyone was hoping for our 'star' to follow the others, but manners cost nothing!
The stage three were the support act,..er, I mean 'special guest', Virginia MacNaughton. A rather studiously attired, slim and not unattractive singer/songwriter, with an almost Michael Hesletine-ian cascade of chestnut to mousy-blonde hair, (depending on the lighting!). She was in fact, quite charming! The first thing she did was to remark "It's very quiet in here!". And a slightly and rightfully embarrassed people shuffled in their seats and gave polite applause.Frankly, I felt sorry for Virginia. Her other two accompanying friends were 'Ali', a Tracy Thorn clone tinkering the piano sounds from the Kursweil PS88, and some vacant looking guy doing his thing on percussion, looking rather like he'd prefer to be anywhere else but there.
They did a short set of around five songs on love, relashionships and the usual repertoire of the Sylvian/Vega/Chapman/Armatrading soul-bearers. I found Virginia to be a pleasant surprise that could easily be enjoyed even by the youth of today. From Dido to Bodixa to Virginia, no trouble! Her 2nd studio CD album and other Info is available from www.VirginiaMacNaughton.com
After a beverage break, complete with lollies and Wurther's Originals all round, there was the lighting of an incense burner set to 'slow waft', it was now time for the Kiki section of our night on the town for the embryo crusties. And on she came, in jeans and black vest, cloaked in a thigh length red jacket with gold effects, blending in with the theatre's interior decor. This time there was not trouble finding the applause button. It was straight into over 15 songs, the evergreen 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart', which then eased into 'Killing Time'. The set consisted of songs both old and new, and by 'others'. It would become quickly apparent that the poor woman was fighting off a sniffley Cold, with breaks for nose blowing and devouring of a pint of ice water during the two hour show.
The newer tunes came from her last two CD albums, 1995's 'Almost Naked' and 1998's 'Where Rivers Meet', as well as songs being tested for the next release. Following a more contemporary covering of Peter Gabrials's 'Digging In The Dirt', came 'One And Only', splendent with the stage backdrop turning into a skyscape of twinkerling white lights.
Always remembering to thanks the shrunken capacity crowd for their applause, next came 'Salty Water', where Kiki started to come to life, as did her musical companion, multi-guitared Carmelo Lugerri. He looked like the kind of guy who could handle himself well in a brawl and his playing wasn't so bad either, running the gamete of Ry Cooder, Peter White and even a little Fripp for good measure.
You could tell Kiki was contesting a Cold but her voice still shone and expressed the sentiments she wanted, really capturing the soul of the songs. She herself, certainly captivated the eyes! The new 'I'm Not Useless' was eventually followed by the 1973 No 13 classic 'Amouruese'. This was not till after a bit of panic on behalf of a very confused Carmelo, who appeared to have a different song=order list from Kiki and the third body on the stage, (some Indian guy with the belly of Buddha and the hair of Don King, giving the set a Bangora flavour). After much patience form Kiki and an amused crowd, all turned out well. Kiki even sang a verse in its original French form.
Kiki test-drove yet another new song on us called 'Everybody Falls'. Not a crap song but not a great one either. The repetition of the word 'everybody' reminded me in a more positive manner of the Leonard Cohen/Sharon Robinson song 'Everybody Knows' as performed by California's Concrete Blonde in 1994 on their 'Still In Hollywodd' CD album, (I.R.S. 72438-2912828). That's isn't a critique of Concrete Blonde I hasten to add. Get yourself to E-Bay or Amazon or some good Importer and order their back catalogue. Imagine 4 Non Blonde meets Jimi Hendrix and you'll get the picture.
Other tunes embraced us were 'Drink A Case Of You', 'Amen And Goodbye', 'Under The Sky' (more twinkerling lights!), 'Oh Light', and Sinatra's 'A Very Good Year', and son on. Interesting to note that there wasn't too many of her formers hits. Only three I counted. The encore was U2'S 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and the song I'd been waiting for all night' I've Got The Music In Me', though I still prefer the full band version.
It is a great loss of the spotlight no longer paying even a little attention to a still charming and competent singer, songwriter, musician and mother that is Kiki Dee. Lear more from www.kikiandcarmelo.com