The young waif of 2003’s ‘Call Off The Search’ is long gone.
That was the first incarnation of Katie Melua that I remember – at Museumsplatz in 2007.
The year 2013 saw not just a new venue (Kunstrasen) but a new Katie too, brought back to Earth as she then said by the low of a breakdown in 2010, and the high of a marriage (to Superbike-racer James Toseland)
Now, in 2022, enter yet another Katie Melua in a new venue again (this time Brückenforum). Freshly announced as pregnant by The Sun Newspaper (although it was rather hard to miss how her guitar stuck out as she herself joked) but also keen to talk about the Art of songwriting and with fresh songs too.
It’s odd to see someone so pregnant stating early in their show that love is not always a happy theme. Songs like ‘If You Were a Sailboat’ from 2007’s ‘Pictures’ album don’t tell the whole story she says. This evening’s theme in fact is very much lessons in Lovesongs that closely follow Melua’s own life trail.
“Being able to put my life into songs is a huge privilege” says Katie at one point. It’s something that she is able to do now of course because of the words put into her mouth by songwriter Mike Batt that catapulted her to stardom as a teenager. Which isn’t to say she hasn’t also written some cracking songs herself I hasten to add and Melua has a devoted fan base now that maybe isn’t the enormous one of 2007, but it fills the seated Brückenforum and embraces her freedom from outside constraints. It’s a fan base that also needs to be devoted, since much of the older hit material is no longer on the set-list.
There are a couple of numbers from her project with Simon Goff ‘Sit Quietly’ and ‘Textures of Memory’ a rather dusty-sounding project combining music and architecture into a musical style. From the two tracks played this evening though it’s clear that Melua has channeled the ideas well and her hypnotic voice easily transfixes the listener – in short, it works!
I suspect though that after every new song a large proportion of the attentive listeners were waiting for one of those famous hits. ‘Spiders Web’ or ‘My Aphrodisiac’ perhaps? Those old favorites though were few – seemingly handed out as sweets to the patient ‘children’ listening to the newer and generally heavier songs. Which is not to say the new material was weak. It didn’t have the immediate pop hook to sink into your subconscious, but ‘Leaving The Mountain’ for example was hypnotic and all the better for hearing about its background as a family song (her father is referenced) and family time spent exploring Melua’s home Country of Georgia.
I’m not too sure about her cover of Black’s ‘It’s a Wonderful World’ but maybe that’s because I think Black nailed it perfectly the first time around.
Overall an enjoyable concert though, as one would expect from someone with the voice and integrity of Katie Melua. But yes, I did miss that young waif from 2007 apologizing for almost missing the show because she got caught at the railroad crossing in Bonn. At the same time, It is, as Katie pointed out during the evening, important to write new songs and to develop both as a musician and as a person. I remember seeing a horrendously complicated contract for photographers in 2007 from Dramatico, her then Agent, saying all images taken belonged, forever, to them. Good that she has jettisoned such bombast.
I missed the old hits, but appreciate the new Katie’s values is what I want to say. It made the closing number ‘Closest Thing To Crazy’ even more special though. “Follow your heart” would be my advice for the future to her – but I think she already has that as her mantra. And good so.
I cannot finish without mentioning the support act this evening. I was so pleased to see that Roxanne de Bastion was signed as a guest spot on Katie Melua’s whole European Tour. Roxanne already appeared last year in Bonn at one of the equally mini-concerts taking place on a mini stage next to the main one at Kunstrasen. Having heard her latest disc afterward I was so pleased she would be playing on the BIG stage this time around in front of several thousand people. Sadly it was not to be. The show was moved to a seated Brückenforum.
Maybe that turned out not so bad though. I’ve seen many a single acoustic support musician disappear into oblivion on such a big open-air stage. The intimate confines of the Bruckenforum actually reminded me of seeing Jack Savoretti at the Harmonie supporting Madison Violet in 2012. Jack has gone on to sell out huge venues but it was the intimacy of a small gig that hooked me on his music.
Which is to say that if you were at Brückenforum and caught Roxanne’s set you will be delighted to know that she is every bit as good on disc as onstage. ‘Molecules’ is a perfect-pop confection of a song that via MTV would have made Roxanne into a star. It’s very understandable too that Katie Melua should find Roxanne an excellent support musician. She is is a Board Director at the FAC (Featured Artist Coalition), a Performer and Board DIrector at PPL and an advocate of Imogen Heap’s Creative Passport. She also chairs the BEAT Board (the FAC’s junior board) and is the creator of FM2U (From Me To You), which provides a platform for artists by and for artists, regularly moderating talks on music industry panels that give an artist point of view, and represent artists’ rights. Katie Melua, you might remember, once sang the praises of a similarly involved actress, Mary Pickford. Anyway, ignoring the side issues, musically, Roxanne de Bastion is a bit special. I remember seeing Roxanne’s father Richard at Bonn Folk Club and sitting in the back seat of a car afterward as he talked about his involvement in the German music scene. His daughter is doing his memory proud – but I suspect he knew she would.