Katie Melua and Gori Women's Choir played the final date of their Winter Tour 2018 at The Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh tonight, and even after a hectic schedule of performing in 37 cities in the short space of only seven weeks, everyone on stage put in a magical performance to the delight of the many fans at this full venue. Speaking to some of the people at the interval, I know some had come from many different countries to be at this show in Edinburgh.
If Fairy Tales can come true, then the story of Katie Melua’s life of moving with her family from her war-torn home of Kutaisi, Georgia (which was then part of the Soviet Union) to Northern Ireland then eventually to London to make a life in music and become a very successful singer-songwriter truly has to be a modern day one.
Katie Melua performing live on-stage is that very rare performer these days – one who needs no distractions on stage of any kind, no lavish stage productions, no dancers, nothing at all, and the reason for that is simple. Katie Melua needs none of these gimmicks; her own amazing vocals and songwriting skills are all that are required for a talent of this scale. Katie is a very competent guitarist too, showing some very slick chord changes here, but ultimately, even that guitar is not required. Add into the mix here, the outstanding vocal talents of the 14 performers of the “Gori Women's Choir” and this show is about the most important and amazing musical instrument of all – the human voice. It has to be noted too that Katie, as on stage tonight, has had the skills of a very good band behind her on this tour (including her younger brother Zurab on lead guitar).
Songwriters with Katie’s gift for writing wonderful music and words to create wonderful stories in the time allowed for a song are very rare, and there are just so many of them in Katie’s song catalogue, but of course classics like "The Closest Thing to Crazy", “Wonderful World” and "Nine Million Bicycles" had to be in the set list here to the delight of the audience. Katie is not just a gifted songwriter though, but a very special singer with a voice that has a rare clarity and purity that makes it haunting and timeless in equal measures. All of these qualities were more than evident on performances of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Fields of Gold”. Also in this set was a surprisingly fresh arrangement of “Diamonds Are Forever”.
Gori Women's Choir, (who Katie has been working with for the last four years) are a vocal power in their own right, and solo performances and with Katie (singing one song in her native Georgian) were master-classes in vocal harmony and phrasing. The choir have that wonderful sound of strong church traditions which Georgia with its Christian Orthodox churches has somehow managed to retain over the centuries. Highlight of the choir’s performance with Katie though for me has to be a beautiful performance of “Oh Holy Night”.
Katie Melua was showing no signs here of “end of tour fatigue” and a faultless vocal performance combined with an ease of engagement with her audience made this a night out to remember for everyone at the show.
Supporting Katie Melua on this tour and opening the evening’s music, is London based singer/ songwriter Keeva. What type of artist someone picks to be their support on tour is always interesting, and here, with some very skilfully written songs on the fragile condition of the human heart in relationships, and five songs tonight from her “Four Sad Songs and a Ballad” debut EP clearly show why Keeva is touring with Katie here, as the two have much in common as songwriters and performers.
Out of the five songs from Keeva’s set, “How Do I tell You” is the one that I left the show with clearly stuck in my head. There is something vintage about not only Keeva’s voice, but often the phrasing and use of guitar chords in her music, and by this, I do not mean that is it “out of date”, but capturing a little bit of that sound and feel of some of the great blues/jazz vocalists of the ‘50s and ‘60s. So often, Keeva reminded me of one of my all time favourite singers – Julie London.
Touring with not only an established talent of the stature of Katie Melua, but also being part of a slickly produced stage production that has put a lot of time into getting sound and visuals “spot on” can only be a positive learning curve for Keeva.
Review by Tom King