15TH May 2015
During my childhood in the 1960’s Lulu was a huge part of my musical education; not just her singles that I adored, but the cool albums I eventually inherited from my brother and especially her Saturday evening TV shows which was were Jimi Hendrix famously stopped mid Hey Joe to dedicate an under-rehearsed Sunshine of Your Love to Cream who had disbanded earlier in the week.
Earlier this year she released her 20th album Making Life Rhyme which meant that this would her first Tour for 10 years; so as a special treat for Mrs. Rocking Magpie tickets were organized.
With no support act, apart from a back catalogue spanning 50 years, the set was to be spread over two halves starting at 7.30 with a planned close of 9.30 (she obviously knows her demographic don’t like to stay up too late!)
The band came out amidst a blanket of smoke and opened with a brooding Celtic guitar instrumental before the Star virtually skipped on stage sporting a black trilby and a white jacket over a black hoodie and launched into the Republica hit – Ready to Go! Which was so loud and fast I thought it might scare the first few rows; but thankfully it didn’t. Before the applause had time to die down Lulu took ownership of her hit single with Take That; Relight My Fire during which she had the first of her problems with her ear-monitors; which didn’t seem to fit her ears.
This time when the song ended she took the time to soak up the adulation from her 2,000 followers in the sold out venue, as she tried in vain to get the monitors back in place. Third song in was the opening track from the latest album, Faith in You and it managed to stand shoulder to shoulder with the previous two songs.
Still fiddling with her ears; Lulu finally got her breath back as she introduced Bowie’s Man Who Sold The World which had been a huge hit out of leftfield in 1974. For the first time, but not the last in the evening I was really impressed with the power and range of her voice and the passion she showed throughout the four minutes.
I’m not sure what everyone else was expecting from the diminutive Glaswegian; but apart from the first three ‘Pop Songs’ the rest of the evening was a real mixture of old forgotten tracks from throughout her career; all bolstered with a mélange of her favourite songs; and I for one and Mrs. Rocking Magpie for two were really impressed with the choices and balance that made up the set list.
Much like Dolly Parton last year; Lulu interspersed most songs with a series of chatty stories that disguised her getting her breath back as everything was either a 100mph rocker or a slow Bluesy Soul song that came up through her toes and via her heart; all of which would have left a much younger singer gasping for breath.
Not every introduction worked, as Bless her, Lulu can talk for Scotland, as the rambling story about being on the freeway in LA in the rain proved; but the song that followed, Where The Poor Boys Dance was well worth waiting for and was one of the highlights of the evening.
Apart from treating my young lady wife I love concerts like this as; even for a music snob like me, they never fail to throw up pleasant surprises and Lulu’s duet with guitarist Louis Riccardi on I Don’t Wanna Fight, the hit she wrote for Tina Turner was re-arranged to sound as Country as anything Tim and Faith ever recorded.
The second half started with the band surrounding Lulu in a semi-circle strumming acoustic guitars (apart from the bass player of course); as Lulu began talking about the songwriters that had influenced her over the years; especially Lennon and McCartney who were friends and of course; the Bee Gees of whom she had been married to Maurice. What followed next was odd at the time and was the subject of a long conversation the following morning; as she performed three Bee Gees songs and while each song was performed excellently; especially her Bluesy interpretation of To Love Somebody; three songs was always going to be two to many; because as my wife pointed out during her soliloquy to Maurice – “She divorced him!”
Another low point was the cod-Reggae version of To Sir With Love; with red, gold and green stage lighting……no, no, NO! This was wrong on so many levels.
Back to the good stuff; and there was plenty of it as Lulu explored her Blues and Soul roots on her new song Cry and latterly a show stopping Try a Little Tenderness; and her boisterous Hound Dog duet with Riccardi owed more to Big Mama Thornton than Elvis.
Mercifully Lulu missed out 99% of the pop songs that made her famous but no concert would be complete without Shout! from 1964; and once we’d got past the longwinded will she/won’t she the song itself was amazing; seamlessly slipping and sliding between Soul, Blues and even Gospel as she mimicked James Brown and Tom Jones at different points; with everyone on their feet (even if a couple literally had to be helped up) and the joint really was jumping as she ran around the stage waving her hands in the air.
After a slow count to 10, the band made their way back for the obligatory encores; and what came next was the best surprise of all. Earlier that day BB King had died; and as a tribute Lulu and band regaled us with a razor sharp version of the Thrill is Gone and, sorry, but I couldn’t stop myself welling up as Riccardi and Simon Johnson traded Blues licks that the great man would have been proud of.
Then the party got started with a rip-roaring 10 minute version of the Edwin Star classic 25 Miles, which had the aisles rocking with dancers and 2,000 pensioners belting out the Na, Na, Na, Na chorus like giddy teenagers.
My wife was happy, I was happy and 1,998 other music fans appeared happy as we made our way out of the venue and to think she hadn’t even come close to singing Boom, Bang a Bang!
PHOTO-SET courtesy Harrisonaphotoshttp://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Lulu-at-Sage-Gateshead/i-DPcK3ck