Beverley Knight – Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, Wednesday November 23
For her seventh and latest studio album, Soul UK, Beverley Knight has paid tribute to the British soul music which soundtracked her youth and inspired her to become a performer. “This record is an absolute labour of love”, she told the Post, earlier this year. “I’ve always banged on about how British soul doesn’t get the respect it deserves, but you have to honour the people who put it in the spotlight in the first place.”
Ranging from early Eighties jazz-funk to early Nineties acid jazz, selections from Soul UK made up a large part of Beverley’s 100 minute set. Appropriately enough, the singer made her entrance with a red, white and blue scarf around her neck. Tying it to her mike stand, she used it as a prop for the rest of the evening, grabbing it and jiggling it for emphasis. Just in case we had still missed the point, an enormous Union Jack was revealed on the back wall of the stage, about halfway through the show.
As opening numbers go, you can’t get a clearer statement of intent than Get Up!, the 2001 hit which immediately brought half the stalls to their feet. The other half were swift to follow, once commanded to do so. “This is an energetic gig!”, we were warned. The energy levels duly remained high as Beverley, her four piece band and her three backing singers led us through the equally appropriate Made It Back, and into the first selection of Britsoul covers: Freeez’s Southern Freeez, Soul II Soul’s Fairplay, Junior’s Mama Used To Say and the debut single from Jamiroquai, When You Gonna Learn.
The pace slowed for the rapturously received Gold, which led into a lengthy selection from Beverley’s back catalogue. “I want to take you on my own Soul UK journey”, she explained, introducing a medley which went as far back as 1998’s Sista Sista (a welcome revival for one of her finest tracks), and as far forward as last year’s self-explanatory Soul Survivor (when you’ve been in the business for seventeen years, you’ve earned the right to celebrate your achievement).
The main set concluded with a run of hits – Shoulda Woulda Coulda, Keep This Fire Burning, Greatest Day – and then it was back to Soul UK for the first encore: a stunning, gospel-tinged reworking of George Michael’s One More Try. Rocking it up for the final lap, the band tore into Come As You Are, Beverley’s highest charting hit, and a spirited cover of Roachford’s Cuddly Toy closed the show.
“I hope you’ve enjoyed every minute!”, she beamed. “I certainly have.” And perhaps that’s the key to understanding how Beverley Knight has maintained her status as Britain’s best known soul artist for so many years. A natural entertainer to her very core, with a generous spirit and an infectious love of performing, her mission is simply to share that enjoyment with everyone around her. Long may she continue to do so.