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Live Reviews

Jazz at the 2010 Norfolk and Norwich Festival, UK

By Published: June 14, 2010

This is a singer who is not afraid to tell her audience about the down side of life and love—and to do so by selecting some of the greatest left-field songs of the last 50 years. O'Sullivan opened with Jacque Brel's "My Death" and moved quickly into David Bowie's "Rock and Roll Suicide," Nick Cave's "Little Water Song" and Brel's "Amsterdam" with its tale of lonely and lost souls. Only one song was genuinely upbeat—Kirsty MacColl's "In These Shoes," which tells a humorous story of mild sexual deviance. By contrast with her song choices O'Sullivan herself is witty and light-hearted, which makes her selection of songs of such gravitas even more effective.

For much of the second set O'Sullivan's face was deathly white—she applied the make-up herself after the first song—as the songs grew progressively darker. Trent Reznor's "Hurt" and Cave's "God is in the House" were especially beautiful while Tom Waits' "Misery's the River of the World" had a real sense of menace. O'Sullivan closed the concert with another Cave composition—"Ship Song"—a spectacularly affecting performance of this lovely, sad and haunting song.

As the number drew to a close, O'Sullivan left the stage, still singing, and walked into the auditorium. Her band members followed until only the pianist stayed on stage, the remaining musicians singing the final chorus as they, too, walked slowly into the darkness. The entire performance was a masterclass from a singer and performer of genuine star quality. Inventive, exciting, moving and challenging by turns, O'Sullivan and the Norfolk and Norwich Festival have a surprising amount in common.

Photo credit
Bruce Lindsay

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