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AAA Music | 24 June 2024

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Katie Melua – Live @ Theatre Royal

| On 06, Dec 2016


Sunday 27th November, London

Katie Melua is well known for her warm, moody and dreamy songs inspired by  personal experience. As a singer-songwriter she has a dual heritage: the ex-soviet country Georgia, where she was born, and the UK where she has lived for most of her life. Her debut album Call off the Search sold quickly in the first few months and in 2006 she became the UK’s best selling female artist.

Her 7th studio album In Winter, with songs and carols centred on themes of Christmas and the festive season, is her first release on BMG. Katie became mesmerised after discovering the “tone and sonic richness” of the Gori Women’s Choir and she invited them to join her on the album. Talented composer Bob Chilcott also helped with vocal arrangements and the excellent Thai artist Niroot Puttapipat, illustrator of The Nutcracker and Jane Austen’s Emma, was responsible for the album’s cover art and inner illustrations.

At this Theatre Royal performance Katie was supported by conductor Teona Tsiramua and the 23 piece classically trained Gori Women’s Choir, experts in the Georgian style of polyphonic singing. From In Winter she sung (in Ukrainian)‘The Little Swallow’ , an angelic sounding traditional Ukrainian carol arranged by Mykola Leontovych in 1916 and adapted for the west as ‘Carol Of The Bells’. A cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ was delicate and minimalistic, whilst the heavenly, joyous Romanian carol ‘Leganelul Lui Lisus’ (Cradle Song) had great charm.

In imaginative ‘Plane Song’ Katie recalled memories of her childhood  playing with her brother in discarded Soviet aircraft scattered across the Georgian landscape after the civil war.  ‘Tu Ase Turpa’ (If You Are So Beautiful), the only Georgian song from the album, had magic and harmony, whilst ‘Nunc Dimmitis’, from Rachmaninoff’s ‘All-Night Vigil’ (written two years before the Russian Revolution in 1917) was captivating.

In the second set Katie showed that her breathtaking classic ‘The Closest Thing to Crazy’ still had the power to mesmerise and rhythmic ‘Wonderful Life’ was gentle and playful. Singing ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, she described it as one of the greatest songs ever written and it’s certainly true that it won Simon & Garfunkel an unprecedented five Grammy Awards.

‘Satrpialo’ (Georgian song) was an impressively moving encore. Throughout the evening Katie Melua’s clear, sharp vocals confidently complemented her acoustic guitar and her new material seemed compatible with the wonderful the stage backdrop of a snow-covered forest – spacious, stunning and unexpectedly still.

Anthony Weightman