Live Performances I Love.

You sort of know before she opens her mouth that this is going to be good. The band is reassuringly big, the set is reassuringly simple, and by the time you reach 3:10, you’re telling yourself you definitely won’t be attempting this one in the shower! Not many artists have the vocal range to fuse soul and opera, and make it look easy, even adding wordless humor into her performance. Many vocalists of this ilk lose their voice after time, but Jill is one of my favourites for having retained her power. When you watch an artist perform a love song, they wrote themselves, perform with soul, and grace and control, it’s something very special.

Navigating my way through the complicated highs and lows of love and life, I relate a lot to Stevie Nicks, and have always loved Fleetwood Mac (I have a lot on vinyl). When I was a dancer, it was usual to have certain songs designated to you, and I used to strip to “Rhiannon” (a thrilling experience, twirling down a pole at 2am Stevies voice with a thong full of £50’s). Anyway, I love Stevie Nicks, even her solo music which is much less appreciated. Recordings like this are rare, and it’s a joy to be a fly on the wall observing such a talented artist. I am a very sensual person and love experiencing sensuality through art and music. When you understand what was happening within the band (Stevie falling in and out of love with one member, then in love with another – and everyones writing songs about it which they all have to perform together – awkward!) you understand her songwriting and how she is using her music to express life as a creative free spirited woman. 

If an alien were to land on earth, abduct me (don’t worry, this isn’t the beginnings of a weird sex fantasy) and ask me “Billie, what is funk music?” I would show them this video. This is an even rarer video of a performance of the funk band Parliament, performing in Houston in the late 70s. I’ve never taken psychedelics but am assuming this is something like what you feel. You also see how wonderfully fluid music is as an art form – there are rock and disco influences, and visually if you squint your eyes there’s a glam rock aesthetic. Underneath what looks like effortless music is actually something very complicated and perfectly put together. It’s unashamedly funky and outrageous, the musical version of surrealism. Wish I had been there!

Arriving at this version of this song was a lengthy process. I was familiar with a fairly recent live version of Eleanor Rigby with Paul McCartney singing (and very feeble uninspiring guitar – no offence Paul) but backed by the most amazing string band. I absolutely ADORE the violin, and couldn’t help thinking “I wish Paul would shut up”, so decided to seek out a classical version without vocal. It’s a great piece of music in it’s own right so there are many classical recordings. This was my favourite for being clean and beautifully arranged. Too bad (I assume) the Proms won’t be happening this year as I would have loved to go! I also (this is just how the sillier half of my brain works) thought it was very amusing that each musician is sized in proportion to the size of their instrument.

On the list of artists no one should ever ever cover is Kate Bush. (sure I like the occasional spanking but I draw the line at trying to sing Kate Bush – I’m not a masochist). Why do it to yourself? Yet Maxwell somehow manages to improve the song (there, I said it!) What an absolutely gorgeously buttery voice. I don’t think anyone else could pull this off (okay, maybe Prince). I love soul and RandB music and what he brings to this song – he forces you to appreciate the lyrics (I’ve been a big fan of lyrics, ever since as an angst ridden teenager I discovered The Smiths). Anyway, the vocal speaks for itself, so soulful and beautiful.