HALF a century of making music has not diminished the Northern lights that burn so brightly within Barbara Dickson’s soul. Far from it. They continue to sparkle and she shows no inclination to dim them despite tiptoeing gently into her 70s.
Performing at the vast Union Chapel in London’s Islington as part of her 2019 tour, she demonstrated that she has lost none of the magic that jettisoned her into the limelight in the late 1970s with a string of hits including I Know Him So Well, The Caravan Song, January February and Another Suitcase in Another Hall.
Despite the backdrop of an imposing pulpit that even the late Reverend Paisley would have struggled to impose himself in, Dickson dominated the stage with her blend of hits, covers and Scottish folk songs (more upbeat than downbeat). Her voice literally soared into the chapel’s stratosphere, within touching distance of the moon.
Dickson’s covers of Gerry Rafferty songs The Royal Mile (Sweet Darlin’) and The Ark bookended the show, but it was her folk tales of kings and lost adventurers that shone the brightest, confirming her joy at telling stories through her music.
A king searching for his beloved queen taken away by the fairies (King Orfeo). The upbeat Laird of Dainty Dounby countered by the more sombre Lady Franklin’s Lament. This was Dickson at her best with Troy Donockley adding to the Celtic feel with his menagerie of instruments – including a bazouki, Uilleann pipes and various whistles. Expertly played. Thrillingly so on occasion as Dickson danced away like a teenager.
There were homages paid to George Harrison (If I Needed Someone) and James Taylor (Millworker), a solo version of the evocative Barbara Allen, tracks from her latest album Through Line (including the beautiful The West Coast of Clare) and a new song in the creating (Where Shadows Meet The Light).
As if that was not enough, she delivered a thrilling version of the Corpus Christi Carol and acknowledged the mastery of Willy Russell and Blood Brothers with a poignant Easy Terms. Even Watership Down’s rabbits got a look in as she sang Run Like The Wind, a number she recorded for the film, but which never made the final cut. Throughout, Dickson enthralled and entertained the near full hall – no mean achievement. Always at ease. Self assured.
With excellent support provided by Nick Holland on keyboards, the sublime Brad Lang on bass, Russell Field on thumping drums and percussion and of course Donockley and his assortment of musical tricks, this was a triumph at a venue which sometimes can be unforgiving. Dickson’s light did not flicker for one moment. It shone magnificently in the Islington dark.
For anyone wishing to catch this marvellous – and ageless – doyenne on tour, visit barbaradickson.net You will not be disappointed. January February et al with the tour ending on March 10 in Norwich.