I went along to the Dianne Reeves concert a the State Theatre in Sydney expecting a good show. I’d listened to a few of her songs via her website and I thought she sounded good, but not exceptional. But as John Shand observed in his review in the Sydney Morning Herald. On record her voice was good, but the albums tended to be pleasant rather than exceptional. Inside 30 seconds of this concert the reason was obvious: hers is a phenomenal talent that has often been appallingly served by her recordings. Instead of just a “good show”, I saw and heard one of the best live shows in my life. In fact, I’m struggling to think of anything better.
Her vocal range was terrific. As much as her upper range could soar, almost piercing your ears, her lower range could literally cause the theatre floor to vibrate.
Likewise, her musical range was also fairly broad. Of course there were a number of standards such as “Twelfth Of Never” and “You Go To My Head” (which almost made me cry) and I guess even Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” could now be declared a classic. But in explaining that throughout history jazz musicians have always “jazzified” the contemporary songs of their day, she led into a number by Joan Armatrading. There was also a number by Peter Gabriel and Chris, a work colleague who was there, observed there was also a refrain from a Joni Mitchell song, though he couldn’t recall which. In fact, there were several times when I could also pick up recurrent themes from popular songs but, long before I could identify them, the musicians had moved on.
At the beginning of the show, she encoured audience participation which I always think is a little “cute” and sometimes foolish as the audience often, without musical knowledge, can’t clap along to save itself. But even when she’s “cute” – such as her decision to sing her “welcome message” in which she described visiting Taronga Zoo, feeling a little jet lagged etc – she never came across as cheesy. Instead, the audience connection and interaction seemed spontaneous and the two standing ovations were heart-felt.
As I wandered home I was on a total high, humming her final tune most of the way there. And this morning, the first thing I did was send an SMS to my friend Sue suggesting she MUST go and see the show. Quite simply, one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.
P.S. It was a star-studded affair in the audience. Ros Packer, married to Australia’s richest man was sitting a few rows in front of me. Though I didn’t actually notice, I really like the idea of her clapping along, having the time of her life to a great artist.