Madeleine Peyroux, Usher Hall, Review

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Madeleine Peyroux and Band, Jo Mango and Band
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I was introduced to the wonderful voice of Madeleine Peyroux a few years ago and fell in love with her plaintively pure voice singing the blues of Bessie Smith, the songs by Dylan, Cohen and Piaf as well as the odd self-penned number. She has the kind of voice you just have to settle down to hear sometimes as she brings these heartbreaking lyrics so beautifully to life.

Madeleine Peyroux, a French American, started her singing career by busking in Paris and working with the likes of The Riverboat Shufflers who are still delighting tourists at Ile St Louis there. She only has four albums to her name, no slight to her indisputable talent.

It is with some sadness then that I found myself disappointed at Sunday’s concert at the Usher Hall. Her repertoire was mostly very jazz based, new, self-composed songs. They were quite unlike her older stuff that drew me, and jazz is by no means my favourite genre of music so my feeling was of being underwhelmed.

Her four-piece band members are all accomplished musicians and this casually confident performer seems to hit new notes and chords with her rich distinctive voice but there was no magic in the Usher Hall. Her view of Scotland seemed a wee bit skewed and hard to read by the sober serious audience who only seemed to come to life when seeking an encore.

I have seen this joint jumping in the past so maybe it’s unfair to say that the venue was wrong, but I had the sense that a more intimate venue may have been more conducive to Madeleine’s style. There seemed to be a palpable lack of rapport between performer and most of the audience - a lack of spark.

Madeleine’s support act was Jo Mango and her band. Jo has been performing for ten years and must have started as a child as she appears very young and fresh. Her young versatile 2 piece band played a variety of unusual instruments interesting chords and Cutleresque sounds on some to accompany her clear-as-a-bell voice that sounded as though it would make pleasant  quiet Sunday listening. She does have a vinyl album called Black Sun which looked very lovely – a work of art! She also features on a charity compilation CD, Love Letter to Japan that is available as a download on Bandcamp.

Jo is clearly accomplished but was nervous and unsure between songs, becoming confessional and apologetic on stage.  Again, I felt the Usher Hall was not right for this artist who may blossom in a more intimate setting.   Big venues needs more swagger, even if it’s quiet swagger.

Tour continues