Reviewer: Jo Beggs
The Public Reviews Rating:
Elkie Brooks has been singing Pearl’s A Singer for 35 years. You wouldn’t know it. She belts it out without a hint of complacency to the delight of the crowd. It’s just one of a number of old favourites she offers up alongside songs from her most recent, and twentieth, studio album, Powerless, which is released to coincide with her new autobiography, Finding My Voice. You can bet the book is a good read. Fifty two years in the business must have left this girl from Salford with plenty of tales to tell.
Even at 67, Brooks still has more than a touch of wild child about her, although she pretty much keeps it hidden in the first half of the show. In a long, flouncy off the shoulder dress she delivers some of her more demure numbers – opening with 1979’s He Could Have Been an Army followed by 1981’s gospel-like Warm And Tender Love, which she tells us is one of her favourites. A number of the audience are clearly surprised by the seven thirty sharp start with no support and just about make it into their seats for Fool If You think It’s Over. But they’re in time for the string of hits and fan favourites that follow – Nights in White Satin with its great early 80’s keyboard riff, Till the End Of Time in which saxophonist Stevie Jones comes to the fore, and the ever popular Lilac Wine.
Elkie and the band are a bit lost on the huge expanse of the rather dark Lowry stage. At times she looks a bit like she’s not sure what to do with all the space. She dances about a bit during intros and applause, gives a slightly awkward thumbs up, yet when she’s singing she never fails to hold the audience rapt. Don’t Cry Out Loud is delivered like a big number from a musical and there’s no doubt that Brooks’ voice is as powerful as ever.
At the end of the first half there’s a hint of what’s to come, though, with guitarist Melvin Duffy and bassist Brian Badhams offering up some impressive blues on He Moves Me. When Brooks returns after a well earned interval, she’s in a black satin dress with a plunging neckline, her mane of red hair has been given a quick backcomb, and she carries off ‘rock chick’ as well as anyone thirty years younger. Brooks looks stunning. She shares with the home crowd that although she’s thought about lifts and botox, she’s had “nothing done” and now she’s got to the age where she no longer cares. This goes down well with the aging crowd.
Brooks and the band keep the best for last. Jumping around in her heels and swinging a microphone stand in the air, she belts out Road House Blues and Baby, What You Want Me To Do. “Bloody hell”, mutters the man behind me as she leaves the stage, “How does she do it?”. The encore brings things down again – a couple of songs from the new album including the a capella Powerless, and a cover of Prince’s Purple Rain. She ends the night with Bob Seger’s We’ve Got Tonight, a perfect farewell.