Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Liz Fraser at The Queen Elizabeth Hall

Yesterday my friend Jane (who used to be a student at the University of the West and is now the A&R at 4AD who signed Bon Iver, and discovered and signed the tUne-yArDs, Grimes and watch-this space) texted me with the offer of a ticket to Antony Hegarty's Meltdown night that featured Liz Fraser.
Wow! What a brilliant thing to do! I have not seen Jane for ages which made it a double yes please.
The QEH was packed to the rafters with the odd pop star floating about (Romeo from the Magic Numbers, for instance) and an awful lot of chaps who were of the age to have dreamed unsavoury teenage dreams about poor Liz. I am not surprised she's not keen on doing gigs.
It means a lot to see artists (particularly female ones) who started up at the same time as me, and in particular people who John Peel championed, so this was a very special night.
She came on to the stage to an almost Olympian roar and I have to say, she looks amazing, Her hair is almost white and cropped elfin short, and she wore a fitted white jacket and a silver skirt that made her look like the frost queen from a children's fairy tale; and of course the way she looked totally matched that high and ethereal voice.
Much of the time she could give Minnie Riperton a run for her money; but I'm not sure that this was the band for her. At times it was like witnessing a fairy accompanied by elephants, which may well have been a mixing problem but during many of the songs the lower register of her voice was utterly swamped by the big, big bass drum sound and the harsh keyboard samples. Singing over grooves is all very well but Liz, you have earned the right to make your band submit to you!
And what is Rick Wakeman's baby brother doing with you, he of the "I-can-play-two-keyboards on-either-side-of-me-at-once" technique and the Krystle Carrington black twinkly jacket with mega-shoulderpads?
Steve Hillage joined her for one song, which made a welcome change from the thunder.
Once the Cocteau Twins and Massive Attack numbers were out of the way, we could listen to songs that were actually written around her voice, and these were spine-tinglingly beautiful. What did they remind me of? The Cocteau Twins? No, almost Michael Garrick: pastoral-sounding, magic-real and lovely.
Debbie Harry's first London gig in the 1970s and Carmel's gig in Edinburgh on a huge stage in the 1980s both presented the artists in this state of vulnerability, small women facing enormous audiences in cavernous venues that threatened to swamp them.
Thanks partly to a really fantastic light show, Liz managed to overcome this tininess and grow during the concert to fill the very large QEH.
The lights also deserve a mention partly because we were seated behind the lighting engineers and they were quite clearly really enjoying the music, which I found oddly touching, possibly because the sound engineers seemed to be mixing a heavy metal band rather than a woman with a strong but delicate voice who had to trust them to make her heard.
Two encores later, the band left the stage; Liz looked positively relieved. Antony had been grooving enthusiastically all the way through from his seat in front of us.
Verdict? She is a small but perfectly formed star with a lovely, lovely voice that I was completely awed by. If I was God, I'd make her ditch her past and flow into the future with those new songs where her voice is the core of the Universe and the band has to obey. And I would spend as much as I could on a sound engineer who understands that the vocals are the centre of a song especially when it's Liz Fraser singing them. In fact, I'd employ the lighting technicians from the QEH to do my sound.
It was actually a fantastic evening and I felt like I'd been hearing a legend sing. Finish the album Liz- I'll buy it! Your new songs are ace.

Thanks for the ticket Jane, it was a great evening with a good yak as well and I look forward to going to the football with you and Myles as soon as the season starts up again!


Wilky of St Albans said...

Hhhmmph. No one ever gives ME a ticket to the gig of the year ***pouts***
Meltdown has been good this year. I gave Diamanda Galas a miss, I think once is enough. I did manage to get a ticket for Laurie Anderson last week and frankly the 3 stars she got in the Guardian was generous. Mark Almond was tempting, but clashed with something else.
But mentioning Liz Fraser in the same breath as Minnie Riperton! I'm not too sure that can go unchallenged!
You can be fairly sure that the middle aged men in the audience were probably having the same thoughts that they had when teenagers, but thats a whole different discussion

Helen McCookerybook said...

I would love to have seen Marc Almond. The closest I have got is appearing in the same issue of ID magazine thirty years ago, when it was a proper street magazine and not a glossy full of ads just like everything else. And they wonder why print journalism is fading out....