Yolanda Brown: Reggae Love Songs

St Georges Hall Concert Room, Liverpool
8th March 2016

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

This was a prestigious venue for the twice MOBO award winning female saxophonist from London to ply her trade, so how did the much anticipated St George's Hall evening turn out?

She and her backing group were certainly up for it and the minimalist audience of mainly female acolytes were too, but as she herself admitted, the acoustics would be a challenge, despite the best efforts of the technical support team.

As she segued into a Tokyo Sunset experience hopes were raised by the clear sound of her saxophone, but the backing line-up of keyboards, drums, lead and bass guitar had a fuzzy edge to them as they joined in. The balance did get better as the gig progressed, but it was sometimes hard to hear what was being said from the mike.

Nevertheless the reggae night spoke for itself. Yolanda, in a loose white top and blue diamante jeans, showed why she is a formidable stage presence, enthusiastically bopping around the stage and encouraging audience members to get on the floor and join her. Bob Marley's Is It Love had them swaying in the stalls as her tenor sax held the stage.

Dear John had the power and range for the band's collective effort to somehow fill the space, but the playing over her voice on My Sunny Valentine, as she introduced it, was not helped by more latecomers continuing to upset the ambience.

Unfazed she poured her heart and soul into it anyway, utilising an extra microphone for added effect on soprano sax, building to a big crescendo. In honour of her two-year-old baby she finished the first set with No Woman No Cry, mellow and even paced, with a touch of Amazing Grace thrown in, to a big handclapping finale.

After the interval the band then got a chance to show their individual talents, before some old school reggae delivered infectious rhythm and foot tapping all round; bluesy guitar, jazzy keys, and dancing sax.

Confusion, with Spanish connotations, following some Scouse and Scottish banter, was complicated on all wavelengths but the melee worked. An evolving Summertime proved she could play the in-between bits, in melancholic gouts of noise on alto sax while the bass guitar finally got a run out, but no-one took precedence as the piece finished on an off note.

Onto the stage then came special guest Shingai Shoniwa of Noisettes fame to sing, but again the acoustics were not great on her introduction and during the song, which had a lot of 'remember me's' in it, so it must have been Never Forget You. Either way she looked fabulous in her chameleon-like red/gold butterfly wing dress, departing with a 'Love you Liverpool!'

As the show came to a finish Silhouettes saw the star leave the stage herself to go on walk about in the audience, an unabashed and sassy flaunting of love song sax, full of irrepressible flourishes and long held notes. Space 1999 keyboards proceeded some cat-a-wailing slide guitar, before a big all singing Hey Jude finale brought the evening to an end.

The standing ovation was the least she deserved after turning the night into a triumph. It was hugs and kisses all round as she and Shingai came down again to mingle with some ecstatic fans. This venerable venue had not seen such an outpouring of youthful exuberance for some time and there should have been more in attendance to see it.

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