Maria McKee – Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Tuesday May 1
Although best known for her 1990 chart-topper Show Me Heaven, Maria McKee has steered an unpredictable and idiosyncratic course ever since. Her 1996 album Life Is Sweet, whose title track opened the show, was viewed at the time as commercial suicide. Down at the Rescue Rooms, before a clued-up and appreciative crowd, the song was greeted as an old favourite.
With all four band members remaining seated throughout, even during the rockier numbers, this was a relaxed and low-key performance, punctuated by scatty asides to the crowd. Nevertheless, Maria displayed a remarkable emotional intensity, and a dramatic, almost theatrical vocal presence.
The newer material, taken from the superb Late December album, was introduced almost apologetically, starting with a ragged, unconvincing Too Many Heroes. Thankfully, the band pulled together again for delightful renditions of the atmospheric title track, the haunting My First Night Without You, and a stirring re-working of A Good Heart, written for Feargal Sharkey in 1985.
Of the older material, Am I The Only One (Who’s Ever Felt This Way) reminded us of Maria’s country-rock roots – but the warmest reception was reserved for her stunning interpretation of Richard and Linda Thompson’s Has He Got A Friend For Me.