Review: Madeleine Peyroux

An appreciative Glee Club audience watched a major talent.

A late change of venue saw American jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux performing at this comedy venue on Hurst Street rather than at the originally-planned Birmingham Town Hall on Thursday night, and it was difficult to argue that the more intimate setting worked better for a singer who has often been compared to Billie Holliday and the jazz greats of yesteryear.

Opening with the 2006 single release I’m All right, Madeleine’s haunting vocals and humourous interlude between songs made for an easy rapport between her and the audience at the busy, if not quite packed, Glee. Her own compositions were met with acclaim and there was a warm reception for some of the covers that the Athens, Georgia-born, Paris-influenced singer performed to show that one of her great assets is the understated ability to know whose songs to sing.

The Willie Dixon number If the Sea Was Whiskey is a perennial favourite of Madeleine’s live sets and in the same vein was her own latin-tinged Honey Party, for which the audience was invited to join in, although it has to be said that the take-up was less than enthusiastic. Audience participation took a back seat to the desire for sitting back and enjoying the talent of a performer whose reticence to grab the spotlight might delight fans who want her to remain just the way she is, while infuriating those who would prefer to see this talent on a bigger stage.

Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love began to bring the set to a close, and there was time for the title track of the 2004 hit album Careless Love, which gave a tight-knit band that includes guitarist John Herington, known for his work with Steely Dan, the chance to go through their paces with some nifty soloing.

Announcing that they were leaving for Athens (presumably the Greek one) at 6am, Madeleine and her band left the stage to warm applause and there was no encore, nor was there really any great demand for one. With an excellent support act in the shape of singer-songwriter Emily Barker, who gave a history lesson on blues great Sister Rosetta Thorpe during her set, this was an evening to enjoy in a respectful fashion that matched the music, rather than get too carried away.