It’s ten years now since Katie Melua was catapulted to success on the strength of her first album, full of romantic tales, ‘Call off the Search’. Since then, Melua has found the love in her life – Superbike Racer James Toseland, but if her own personal search for love has now been called off you wouldn’t know it in the imploring tones of her magical voice at Kunst!Rasen. Love though is a heavy road as she pointed out before embarking on a rather less romantic ‘love Song’ called ‘I’d Love to Kill You’. A magical night for good songs well sung was guaranteed.
It’s 6.30pm at Kunst!Rasen, rows of plastic seats glint in the sunlight and yes – it’s not raining! I’m multi-tasking: filling in a form that seems to indicate that everything I own, do, and maybe even my next of kin, belong, ‘forever and in perpetuity’ to Katie Melua’s Management Company, whilst listening to support act Australian Kate Miller-Heidke far away on the mainstage. I swear she has a full band with her from the sound, but when I finally get stage-side there is only the lady herself and her acoustic guitarist Keir Nuttall. They make an impressive musical duo and Kate herself reminds me very much of Tori Amos, especially on the song ‘Sarah’ which is a harrowing true tale reminiscent of Tori’s ‘Me & a Gun’. The young female Pop/Rock market is heavily saturated with talent right now it seems (I remember Gabby Young at Kunst!Garten only last week) but Kate Miller-Heidke certainly has all the right ingredients to maybe stand where she is standing on the Kunst!Rasen stage but an hour later as headliner one day. Time will tell.
Would Katie Melua be standing here as headliner without the early contribution of Mike Batt to her song canon? It’s interesting to hear her introduce ‘Diamonds are Forever’ as “A song not on my new disc, but that inspires me to hope I may one-day write something as great as this”. In my humble opinion she already has done so – with ‘I Cried for You’ and co-writing the equally haunting ‘Spiders Web’.
It’s six years since I saw her play a magical evening at the Museumsplatz and Katie Melua has changed a fair bit physically in that time. She still has those big and beautiful brown eyes but there seems a melancholy behind them at times, perhaps left over from the breakdown that had her career on hold a few years ago. Her hair is thicker and, impossible as it must be, even blacker – like an Apache Indian squaw. The look punctuated by a beautifully embroidered black buckskin waistcoat. If she had an Indian name it would surely be ‘Sings with Angels’ because no other choir could match her delicate tonality.
This being a tenth Anniversary celebration Tour there is room for a retrospective of Melua’s career and indeed we are treated to classics like ‘Spiders Web’ which she announces later is “The first time I ever played that live on piano”. ‘Mary Pickford’, ‘My Aphrodisiac’ and of course the song that started both my review and her career: ‘Call Off The Search’. There is room too for the odd surprise such as the unaccompanied ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and the Band driven ‘Gasoline Alley’. There is plenty of friendly banter between songs too – which was needed to connect with an audience that, because of the seating, seemed a bit disconnected from the stage.
I much prefer standing, dancing and a feeling of participation. That’s just me though, and Melua’s recollections of a Coffee House in Bonn Centre being so good “I never wanted to leave” rang true for everyone who similarly wanted Katie to sing onstage forever. When she suddenly announced after a breathtaking ‘Closest Thing To Crazy’ at only 9:15pm “Have a great night, wherever you are going on to” it came as quite a shock to many people who had expected to be keeping their (not inexpensive) plastic seats warm for at least another hour. It was an opportunity to head for the barrier though and bring some real live atmosphere to the proceedings as Melua returned for an encore that once again stunned in it’s beauty of simplicity: ‘I Cried For You’. Written, I believe, by the lady herself and proof that neither Mike Batt nor James Bond have anything to teach her in the lyrics department. Diamonds truly are forever – and Katie Melua is a true gem.
Leaving the Kunst!Rasen there was a bright display of Fireworks coming from the Kameha Grand Hotels direction. Very possible, the lady also knows how to celebrate in style. Good for her if that was the case. There will be a coffee waiting next year in Bonn Katie.