Reviewer: Laura Maley
The Public Reviews Rating:
Eddi Reader tells the audience how very grateful she is that so many people are in The Lowry tonight, because she hasn’t even got a record out. Her reason? She’s been “watching too much Judge Judy”. This candid humour sets the tone for an evening where the audience can really feel like they get to know an artist. This is a performance from an outstanding singer, with a great band, who all evidently love nothing much more than music.
The band play a few songs from Reader’s old band Fairground Attraction’s 1988 award-winning album ‘First of a Million Kisses’ – including Perfect, sounding better than ever, but also featuring ‘Wish Me Well’ and ‘The Moon Is Mine’. As well-received as those songs all undoubtedly are, it’s pleasing that the audience has obviously followed Reader’s career since, and not just turned up for old hits. With a set list best described as ‘under construction’, Reader plays around with those old tracks and ‘Patience of Angels’, as well as some new ones as yet unrecorded. All stages of Reader’s career are covered in the concert, effortlessly moving from unfinished new material to Robert Burns and 1980s hits.
Many tracks are introduced with a story – whether it’s Reader’s first trip to New York (‘New York City’) in 1982, or a captivating extended vision of the young Reader’s family’s New Year’s Eve Parties (‘Mona Lisa’, as sung by her mother). Yet the balance of talking and singing and playing is very well managed; storytelling is Reader’s strength whether she’s singing or not. Even her trusty squeezebox is introduced with the fact that she bought it “with the Alison Moyet money, in 1985’ referring to her early touring history.
The band are excellent musicians, performers and songwriters in their own right and Reader has collaborated with them – John Douglas, Boo Hewerdine and Alan Kelly – in the writing of many of the songs played tonight.
Support comes in the form of Iain Morrison, from Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Like Reader, Morrison is inspired by where he comes from, and the stories he has lived with, such as a school friend who gave up medicine to become a clown. Vocally Morrison sounds a bit like to Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, but also Damien Rice – whom he’s musically more similar to. Morrison’s songs deserve the audience he gets on this tour.
One of the most remarkable parts of Reader’s musical career – which gives a rich vein of inspiration and forms some of tonight’s highlights – is her 2003 album, ‘The Songs of Robert Burns’. ‘Leezie Lindsay’ sees Hewerdine and Reader create a series of verses around the chorus by Burns, others like ‘Charlie Is My Darling’ and ‘My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose’ are based on traditional arrangements, but it is ‘Willie Stewart’ – dedicated to her band – which forms the rousing finale, sending the audience, buoyed, into the night.