Jane McDonald has crept up on me. As for many, my first glimpse of her was on the original “Cruise” documentary. It was immediately apparent that she was a star turn, glamorous, saucy, with personality, and crucially a very good singing voice that was at ease with a variety of musical styles. She is no overnight sensation, with her cruise career predated by the hard slog of the club circuit. A grounding that defines what she is.
This was my first live show, the last night of the 20th Celebration tour. Securing tickets very late in the day was not easy. Memorably my “contact” at Wolverhampton Grand had told me “ there is sold out, then there is Jane McDonald sold out “, but where there is a will, there is a way. I was expecting a slick, professional show, with bags of personality. That is exactly what she delivered.
A full house, the last of the sold out tour, greeted her like a home coming queen, big hair, big dress, big voice, and she didn’t relax her grip throughout the two hour show. The material was eclectic, diverse and exceptionally well performed. The night took off with “Downtown” and musically hit its peak with a Bacharach/ David medley. Three gorgeous female back-up singers also strutted some pin sharp dance moves, and were perfect for the call and response requirements of Bacharach’s songs.
Jane is a performer comfortable with her audience, she pauses the show to read out some birthday/ anniversary greetings, there is a bit of comedy, and plenty of banter with her fans. She is also smart, promoting the date of her 2019 Grand show, June 6th, to an audience who would probably all have signed up again that night. The Grand is a perfect venue for her. The acoustics are superb, the 1200 capacity large enough to provide her with a handsome payday, but intimate enough to retain a cabaret/ music hall character to her show.
What struck me was how much her band seemed to be enjoying the music and the performance and how skilled a performer she is. The vocals never faltered, the hand gestures flourished, her hips shimmied playing to all three levels of the auditorium. She is in the tradition of Petula Clark, Cilla Black, Shirley Bassey, Lulu and Kylie, borrowing a little from each one.
The first half closed with “You Are My World”, the second with “Never Enough”, then a 70’s style disco romped brought the curtain down on the night, and the tour.
Her own material is strong, but she has secured a place in an elite level of performers who can sing the material of others, yet claim an audience because they are singing that material, not because the audience have come to see a specific repertoire performed.
She was given a standing ovation on arrival, after many of the songs, at the end of the first half, at the end of the second half and had the entire theatre on its feet for the close shaking our groove thing, “Amazing Grace” thrilled the older of her older fans, Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight” was the unexpected delight of the evening.
A faultless performance, great songs, a palpable connection with her audience in a fine venue was a fitting end to her tour. Catch her live when you can.