Lindsey Webster: Ronnie Scott’s, London 22/3/17
Desperately sad events, barely a mile away, a few hours earlier on Westminster Bridge result in a slightly subdued atmosphere at this iconic venue, but it is great to see that Ronnie’s is still rammed for Lindsey Webster’s much-awaited series of UK dates. The room is filled with friends and industry supporters (MC duties from Jazz FM’s Chris Philips) and the anticipation is palpable. Returning just a few months after a successful series of Pizza Express live performances on the back of last year’s acclaimed “Back To Your Heart” album, Lindsey takes to the stage resplendent in retro kaftanesque chic.
As if reflective of the mood, there is a relatively low-key opening of “Open Up” and “I Know You Well” (previous punchy opener “Back To Your Heart” now closes the set) before she really hits her stride with an intimate, stripped back version of “Those Three Words”. Staying with the latest album for the next three songs, “Where Do You Want To Go” is a brooding delight and “Fast & Slow” allows Lindsey to amply shows off the full talents of her band, including husband and songwriting partner Keith Slattery on keyboards. It is telling that the vibe is never diminished during the instrumental breaks, with Mike De Micco on guitar a particular audience favourite. Unable to bring the full band over on their previous visit, there is an unmistakable air of relaxed confidence within the ensemble.
Now in full flow, we are treated to the strongest part of the set, starting with personal favourite “Soul Salvation”, a gorgeous, vivid evocation of the spirit of Dusty. This is followed by a tour de force “Over The Rainbow”, a song they have been performing since starting out as a touring duo in 2009. Over 1000 gigs later, the acapella start has the room spellbound in silence. The segment is satisfyingly completed by Billboard topper “Fool Me Once” from the 2015 “You Change Album”, a song they are rightly proud as one of only two vocal led tracks to top the Smooth Jazz Chart since its inception.
Closing with the latest album title track, we just have time for a loose, funky version of Aretha’s “Baby I Love You” as a triumphant encore. Her roots maybe in classical music (she played cello in grade school), but her choice of covers definitely betrays the soul diva inside, with Chaka Khan and Prince referenced on her last visit. Let it out baby!
As we spill out into a London night still filled with an uneasy tension, Lindsey awaits in the corridor – chatting with fans, signing CD’s and posing for pictures. A typically thoughtful gesture, affirming the long-held truth that in troubled times, a little beauty and humanity are needed more than ever.
PHOTOS: CARL HYDE
Words Peter Nixon