Julia Fordham – Live by Request

Simon Hale watches a special request show.


Julia Fordham
MAC, Birmingham

It may have been 28 years since Julia Fordham’s love songs first brought her international acclaim but neither the artist nor the voice have shown their age.

The California-based pop and jazz singer-songwriter, playing Birmingham’s MAC on a rare tour of the UK, had handed over the set list to her fans in her Live by Request show.

It seemed like most wishes were granted as Julia, on acoustic guitar with Grant Mitchell on keyboards, Miles Bould on drums and Mark Neary on bass guitar, packed in 18 numbers from her back catalogue.

But the evening wasn’t all about the past. Looking radiantly youthful in a leopard print jacket and long black dress, Julia opened with the title track of her Falling Forward album before singing an affectionate new song dedicated to her parents that will feature on her new Live & Untouched album.

Ingrid & Humphrey, named after the film stars Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart of whom her folks remind her, was written as a tribute to a lasting love on their 60th wedding anniversary. It was also a reminder of Julia’s years as a teenager writing and performing songs in the folk clubs of her home town of Portsmouth where her parents still live.

Love runs through all Julia’s repertoire but she sang as if she was drawing on personal experience – and it resonated with an audience that reacted as it if had been through the same emotions. There were songs from seven of her 15 albums as Julia took us back to 1988 and her self-titled debut with Cocooned and Happy Ever After, the hit that she said “has taken me around the world”.

She acknowledged her Birmingham fans for requesting three songs from her Porcelain album, with the gentle Lock & Key, Island and title track drawing equal audience approval. There were no prizes for guessing the most requested number as Julia demonstrated her husky to piercing vocal range with the soulful top 20 hit from her Swept album, Love Moves in Mysterious Ways.

Her American chart hit Manhattan Skyline showed off the singer’s pop prowess at her best, while Love from her Concrete Love album sublimely demonstrated her jazzy side. But the song that remained most in the memory was Julia’s own soulful favourite, Stay, from her East West album, sung with a deeply moving heart-wrenching honesty.

The evening finished appropriately enough with another Porcelain track Where does the time go? Indeed the two hours had flown by and, like after all great shows, you were left wanting more.

Julia’s new Live & Untouched album, featuring a cross-section of songs recorded at recent shows, will be released on November 25th.