JANE MCDONALD: THE SINGER OF YOUR SONG AT THE WOLVERHAMPTON GRAND THEATRE
Theatre Run: Wednesday 17 September 2014 (One Night Only at Venue)
Performance Reviewed: Wednesday 17 September 2014
Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
It seems almost journalism-on-autopilot to preface a review of Jane McDonald’s live show by harking back to BBC reality show The Cruise, the surprise hit which saw the singer achieve celebrity practically overnight, but if there is one thing made abjectly clear throughout Singer of Your Song, her latest UK tour, McDonald is not afraid, dismissive or remotely embarrassed of what has come before. 16 years since Cruise made her a household name, and not only is her career continuing to go from strength-to-strength, opportunity and schedule afforded now by her departure earlier this year from daytime chat show Loose Women, but if her performance at the Wolverhampton Grand was anything to go by, her abilities and prowess as a singer-songwriter are enjoying similar boons.
Named after her recent album release, the first she has recorded in 6 years, Singer of Your Song not only showcases an incredibly versatile and powerful voice, but also bounces along with real vim and whimsy with the same genuine, unassuming natural charisma that won the Nation’s hearts back in ’98. On paper it’s a combination that perhaps strictly speaking shouldn’t gel - a cheeky segment of ad libbing or lamenting the woes of the aging body casts the theatre in a playful, tongue-in-cheek mood as Jane the comedienne takes centre stage, whilst minutes later a barnstorming, tour-de-force rendition of Love Is All can be threatening to raise the roof and take the audience with it. It sounds too incongruous to work, yet McDonald finds the truth in it all, both the grandiose and the giggles, with her irrepressible, everyday charm and authenticity making the whole show work effortlessly. Her healthy dose of self-awareness and more than a soupcon of self-deprecation keeps the audience won over and on-side and the feel-good factor consistently high throughout.
Tracks from the latest album form the core of the shows playlist, though given the pedigree of songs it includes, that is no critique or slight. From lighter, tender fare including the likes of I’ve Never Been To Me and Betcha By Golly Wow through to more arresting staples such as a powerful, moving rendition of The Rose, assisted on stage by long-time friend Susan Ravey (whom she also duets with on the album), McDonald sinks her teeth (and lungs) into each, and the sense that each numbers offers personal relevance is palpable throughout. It isn’t all strictly album fare and promotion (though there was a great running gag over the course of the night in regards to it’s availability at the theatre), with McDonald mixing things up with the likes of not one but two killer disco medleys, including a tribute to the great, late Donna Summers, and a supremely impressive Bond medley that opens the second act. Again, there is versatility to spare when a performer can so spiritedly and masterfully pull off the likes of disco classic Last Dance and contemporary Bond belter Skyfall with equal conviction. There’s a dash of Cilla, and even a couple of Shirley Bassey’s added in amongst the fold, as well as a slew of old favourites as requested by the fans. And throughout it all, McDonald’s rich vocals remain disarmingly impressive and a joy to savour. Yes, there’s more than a dash of cheese, camp and cabaret thrown in there, but McDonald would be the first to proudly acknowledge so, and the sold-out theatre likewise wouldn’t have it any other way.
|Photo by Glen Chevannes|
As mentioned, McDonald’s vocals are meticulously on point, and those who may have dismissed her as a TV personality first and foremost should prepare themselves for a very welcome surprise - when McDonald reaches for those big notes, she commands them masterfully. This latest tour continues to prove not only what a terrific singer she is, but also reminds the adoring crowd how much songwriting, too, is a core part of her raison d’etre as a musician and recording artist. The titular song, for instance, being an original number penned specifically for the fans who have continued to support her over the years.
A brilliantly judged mix of crowd-pleasing covers and completely original pieces, including the beautiful acoustic I’ll Be There co-performed by guitarist and friend Steve Cooper, it’s all buoyed by McDonald’s excellent comedic timing and complete frankness and sincerity. And whilst more often than not, McDonald is the butt of her own jokes, Singer of Your Song illustrates a serious, and indeed seriously impressive, performer and artist who mercifully shows no signs of slowing down or shying away from that killer voice which roars through an auditorium with ease.
Singer of Your Song is the kind of hearty, wholesome evening of entertainment that comes as a very easy recommendation, and McDonald is the perfect hostess to unassumingly guide an audience through it. As the musical pariah that is The X Factor once again resumes its tired, formulaic schtick for another year’s end, and we are repeatedly bashed around the head with the same old insults and criticisms of hopefuls ‘sounding like they belong on a cruise ship’ or even citing Ms McDonald directly, all involved should perhaps put an evening aside to catch her latest tour, as the calibre of performing and the overall sheen and quality of production and entertainment are streets ahead of anything ITV’s flagging horse could muster, and in Jane McDonald it celebrates an extremely humble and down-to-earth singer at the top of her game, deservedly riding high on a career that, likewise, continues to long outlast any of her naysayers.
+ Terrific selection of old and new, original and covers
+ McDonald remains genuine, endearing and very funny
+ A very welcome showcase of her songwriting
+ Classy, effective staging, set and lighting design
+ A show that delivers the big belting goods whilst also remaining personal, humble and relatable
+ That Bond medley (particularly License to Kill/Skyfall)
THE SINGER OF YOUR SONG UK TOUR will be running across the UK at various venues on selected dates throughout 2014 and into 2015.
CLICK HERE to head on over to Jane's Official Website and get the full tour details!
NEXT TIME: Keep checking back for our upcoming interview with Jane, where she discusses her panto debut at the Birmingham Hippodrome later this year, as well as talking a bit more about her latest album which inspired the tour!
Press tickets for this performance of Jane McDonald: The Singer of Your Song were provided courtesy of the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre and Ms McDonald's management directly. (A)musings Media gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation.