With a career spanning 15 years, 6 studio albums, over a million album sales and several high profile awards, Beverley Knight has long been lauded as the reigning ‘Queen of UK Soul’ by mainstream media, however she is not without her detractors. I doubt there are many who would deny Beverley’s vocal abilities, nonetheless many have criticised her material as not being up to standard, and she has so far failed to have that ‘mega-hit’ which has catapulted her to super-stardom.
With the release of her latest album, 100%, Beverley aimed to silence her critics and show that she does have what it takes to be a major player in the UK music business. She decided to release the album on her own label, Hurricane Records, and she had a hand in writing a large amount of material on this album as well as bringing in big-guns on production such as Jam & Lewis. Having been a fan of some of Beverley’s earlier work I’ll admit that after a cursory listen I was slightly underwhelmed, the album was by no means bad, it just lacked a bit of excitement and originality and so I was somewhat hesitant about seeing her live despite hearing good reviews.
Well I can honestly say I’m very glad that I did attend the show. Beverley’s loyal fanbase were in full attendance, which shouldn’t have been a surprise given that she was (nearly) on home turf, and as soon as she hit the stage and began singing ‘Breakout’ the crowd went wild. Her energy and passion were on full display and it was obvious that performing live is where Beverley really feels at home. Her rendition of ‘Keep This Fire Burning’ upped the ante even further, and when she began singing ‘Greatest Day’ three tracks into the set I had completely forgotten my previous misgivings.
What really made the show a success was the ability for Ms. Knight to cherry-pick the best from a fairly strong back catalogue. As well as ‘Greatest Day’ and ‘Keep This Fire Burning’, she gave great performances of ‘Sweet Black Butta’, ‘Made It Back’ and ‘Come As You Are’. Her song choices from 100% were also on point, her rendition of the emotional ballad ‘Bare’ gave me goose bumps and both ‘Every Step’ and ‘Beautiful Night’ were sung to their fullest, completely blowing the album versions out of the water.
The song I most wanted to hear from the new album, the Chaka Khan duet ‘Soul Survivor’, came towards the end of the show and perfectly displayed why Beverley is regarded as a great vocalist. I thought that Chaka’s absence may dampen the track a little, however backing vocalist Mary Pearce gave an outstanding, albeit brief vocal that made me question why she is a backing vocalist rather than a main attraction in her own right.
The real highlights of the show came in the form of ‘Gold’, ‘Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda’ and ‘Flavour Of The Old School’. During the intro to ‘Gold’ Beverley dedicated the song to her family, some of whom were present in the audience. At one point it seemed that she wouldn’t be able to actually sing the track as the tears began to flow while she thanked them for their continued support, but she wiped her eyes and with encouragement from the audience gave probably her best performance of the night on, what is for me, one of her best songs. ‘Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda’ was transformed from a fairly bland pop song into an epic 10 minute breakdown with a completely new arrangement, soaring vocals, and great backing from her band.
Beverley closed the show with fan-favourite ‘Flavour Of The Old School’ which had the vast majority of the seated audience on their feet and singing along. All in all it was the perfect ending to a great show, and made me realise that whilst Beverley’s album material may be criticised as boring or bland by some, her live performance more than makes up for it.