arts

Sarah Jane Morris: A Voice to Die For – From the Depths of the Dead Sea

5 STARS
IF only Sarah Jane Morris the performer and her extraordinary voice could be put in a pickling jar and preserved for ever more.

Although it is some 30 years since Morris hit initial heights with Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles (now Reverend Richard Coles) in the Communards, she continues to thrill audiences. Her extraordinary voice, reaching depths lower than the Dead Sea, and brilliant stage presence stand her apart from the madding crowd. As does her refusal to lie down and accept the status quo – she constantly rails against issues dear to her heart such as slave children and the plight of those fleeing conflict in the Middle East. Morris wears her heart very much on her sleeve.

Morris soars, whether she is flanked by master guitarist Antonio Forcione or by the pairing of the sublime guitarists Tony Remy and cool Tim Cansfield.

Brasserie Zedel (Live At Zedel) in London’s Piccadilly is a favourite haunt for Morris and she never fails to disappoint. Indeed, she is so good and so revered that she is allowed to run over her time slot by half an hour – and get away with no more than a gentle admonishment quietly delivered to her manager sitting in the audience.

On Thursday night, with Remy and Cansfield sitting either side of her like lieutenants, Morris was in experimental mode as she constructed a song list that surprised (and pleased) watchers.

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Although there were marvellous Morris ‘standards’ such as Bloody Rain’s No Comfort For Them (a tirade against child slavery in Africa), and Men Just Want To Have Fun (show them – men – a condom and they want to run), this was a night for her to draw from her vast back book.

There were treats galore, including Paul Weller’s A Year Late (Leaves Around The Door) that Morris remembered performing 23 years ago at Ronnie Scott’s in London while pregnant with her son, now a strapping six foot two inch gentleman who occasionally provides backing vocals (and delightful with it).

Move On Up (Curtis Mayfield and Weller’s Style Council), a teasing version of Dirty Girl Blues (It’s Jesus I love but it’s the Devil I need), and I Can’t Stand The Rain all caught the ear while Tracey Chapman’s Fast Car was sung with passion and gusto.

Of course Morris flourishes on stage because of the musical support provided by Cansfield and Remy. Cansfield’s version of Janis Joplin’s classic Piece Of My Heart is delicious while Remy emits sounds of genius from his acoustic guitar. Morris says Remy is her left hand man, right hand man, her co-song writer and fellow world traveller. On stage, they are joined at the hip.

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No Morris show is without its politics – Trump and May are weaved into Jimi Hendrix’s Just Want To Talk To You. No performance is also without the unpredictable as she temporarily forgot the words to her song I Get High, but being a force of nature she gets away with it. As Cansfield says, Morris possesses ‘massive human emotion’ and puts ‘rock in your sock’.

With Morris and Remy working on a new album – a sliver of it was delivered during the set, like an enticing hors d’oeuvre – the future remains bright for Sarah Jane. The album’s issue date is in November, in tandem with a performance at the Purcell Room in London’s Southbank Centre.

If you fancy catching her before then, she is performing with Forcione at The Old Market, the Brighton Fringe on Sunday (May 6). A trickle of performances then follow with Forcione, mad bad (and brilliant) Ian Shaw, the superlative (and wickedly funny) Lianne Carroll or Remy and Cansfield.

Thrillingly, it all culminates in a reunion with Somerville at the Rewind Festival on August 19 at Henley in Oxfordshire. Don’t Leave Me This Way and all that. Unmissable.

A pickling jar would ensure Sarah Jane never leaves us this or any way.

For the Brasserie Zedel

For Sarah Jane Morris

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