LIVE music seldom fails to entertain. For that reason alone, it should be cherished, supported and encouraged. Go along to a show and get your feet tapping. It will transform your life.
On Monday night (March 20), when the rain clattered down from grey skies and dry warm homes beckoned, Elkie Brooks proved this very point when she delivered an inspired performance at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley, South London.
It was a performance full of verve and splendid surprise. No one left disappointed, not even the ice cream sales person waiting in the wings just before the interval whose tubs of ice creams melted as Elkie hit yet another high note.
There were the hits galore from the late 1970s and early 1980s which I imagine most of the audience came to hear. But there was plenty more besides – some superb covers and a number of wonderful blues and jazz numbers. Elkie, it must be said, is one hell of a live performer. Like a fine (lilac) wine, age has enhanced rather than detracted from the offering.
It was all rather mind-blowing. ‘Operatic,’ said one gentleman busily washing his hands during the interval and eager to get back for more.
‘Bloody marvellous,’ said another. ‘I want what Elkie’s on.’ It was a common sentiment.
She put most of the audience to shame as she marched up and down the stage, giving everyone the thumbs up and jigging away like a teenager. For the first set, she wore a long shimmering black lurex dress. In the second, a shorter white, black and blue number with an ankle bracelet. Suave, sophisticated.
Despite the fact that Elkie is no longer a spring chicken – she’s well into her 70s – she still possesses a voice that stops you in your tracks. This is not someone feeding off her past. Her voice is as raunchy and powerful as ever and she holds all the big notes. At times it’s hard to fathom how such a big voice comes out from such a petite frame. But, boy, Elkie packs an almighty punch or three.
The audience quite rightly enthusiastically greeted the hits that made Elkie a star. The likes of Pearl’s A Singer ( a song she has sung for 46 years), Fool If You Think It’s Over, Sunshine After The Rain and Lilac Wine. But it was the twist that she put on a string of covers that thrilled: a pulsating Purple Rain, a sumptuous version of Bob Seger’s We’ve Got Tonight (to end the evening), a thumping Nights In White Satin (Procol Harem), a cracking Gasoline Alley (Rod Stewart) and a marvellous Do Right Woman – Do Right Man (the much missed Aretha Franklin).
Of course, there were plenty of other stand-outs: a delicate Let Me Wrap You In Your Warm And Tender Love (a Percy Sledge song that she covered on 1981 classic album Pearls), Carol Bayer Seger’s Don’t Cry Out Loud, Make You Feel My Love (a Dylan song made famous by Adele) – and Nina Simone classic I Put A Spell On You.
Elkie is not someone who is prepared to stop quite yet. She gave us a glimpse of her new album – to be released later this year – with a belting cover of 1934 classic For All We Know, a song she first sang 60 years ago at the Whisky a GoGo Disco Club in Manchester with the Dave Ellis Trio.
With Tom Kincaid and Max Smith excelling on keyboards and saxophone respectively, this was a special night. If I were a resident of Basingstoke who loved their music, I’d be buying my ticket for April 21 at the Anvil Club (the concert at Eastleigh at the end of this month is a sell-out).
‘Bromley, it was a pleasure,’ Elkie pronounced at the end to a standing ovation. No, Elkie, it was you who gave all the pleasure. Live music at its absolute best. Elkie rocks. Elkie does the blues. Elkie does jazz. What more could you ask for on a wet Monday night.