Over the course of a fairly long life, (so far) I have seen many live performances by music artists. To be honest, most of them were disappointing. After relishing the quality of studio productions, live gigs rarely lived up to expectations, at least in my opinion. I have had a few disappointments, together with a few pleasant surprises, but little has really stood out for me, to better the original recordings. As I got older, I went less and less, convinced that I would be unhappy, and that it just wasn’t worth the bother, and the not inconsiderable expense.
I have mentioned the British group Swing Out Sister before on this blog. Fronted by the talented vocalist Corinne Drewery, this band fused 1980’s pop music with Jazz, and created a unique place for themselves on the music scene. Their debut album ‘It’s Better To Travel’, was an instant purchase for me in 1987, and the hit single release from that record, ‘Breakout’, was an international hit. I didn’t even think about going to see them live. I considered that the electronics, allied to the varied instruments used, would undoubtedly make it difficult to reproduce the sound that I loved so much.
The second single release, ‘Surrender’, was even better than the first. Though not such a big hit, it was truer to the overall feel and style of the band’s sound, and was a favourite track of mine from the recently issued album. I eventually went to see them perform live, almost thirteen years later, at the Jazz Cafe in London’s Camden. As I lived a short walk from this venue, I decided that it might be interesting, to finally see them in person. In such an intimate space, on a very small stage, I really didn’t expect the group to be able to match the sound that I was used to on their recordings. I was just going out of curiosity, and to see the delightful Corinne Drewery, she of the perfect bobbed hair, and wonderful tone.
From the moment they started the set, I knew that I was witnessing something, that for me, was a first. Not only did they match their CD sound, they improved on it, and I felt privileged to be there, and to be a part of it. They had played for three nights there, and I was at the last performance. It left me wishing that I had been to the other two as well. Not only was the atmosphere convivial, with obviously dedicated and loyal fans, but the sound was fabulous. ‘Surrender’ is a track with a big sound, and I thought it would be impossible for them to reproduce it there. But they did (almost), and it was great. It was nearly as good as the CD track, and that’s saying something.
After the gig, Ms Drewery toured the auditorium, chatting to regular fans, selling CD recordings from a basket, and just being a very nice lady. I told her how much I had liked the set, and she was gracious in her reply. I was so overwhelmed to meet her, and still reeling from the evening, that I forgot to ask her to have her photo taken with me. I doubt I will ever see the group again, but I treasure the memory of the ‘perfect gig’. Here is the song, exactly as I heard it that night, recorded live at the Jazz Cafe in 2000, followed by the album version.