Arriving just moments after the concert starts, the Lancashire lass bedazzles my eyes with here sequin-adorned black dress. Centre-stage, a diminutive, red-headed figure fronting a five-piece band of male players sings “Do Right Woman”. Although familiar with some of her hits from back in the day, I knew little about Elkie Brooks until tonight. As usual, the audience gives one an indication as to the age of the artist; the majority are female and sixty-to-seventy plus. Elkie is in rude health for a lady of 74 years of age. Apparently, she was the biggest-selling female artist of 1981.
Elkie and her band continue a ballad-driven first half with “Warm And Tender Love”, the classic “Fool if You Think It’s Over”, “Since You Went Away” and that notable hit that I most definitely remember “Don’t Cry Out Load”. Next, we are delivered an unexpected treat as Elkie gives us a song that certainly made Adele very famous, “Make You Feel My Love”. Following a sublime sax introduction, by the third lyric the audience were compelled to contribute applause. As Elkie pointed out, Adele did not write the song; it was that great man of words, Bob Dylan – a fact that I had forgotten. Elkie’s husky voice suited this song well.
“Love Potion No. 9” evidenced Mrs Brooks’s reputation as ‘British Queen of Blues’ in the 80’s. This is followed by echo-enhanced renditions of “Superstar” and one of my ten top favourite songs, “Nights in White Satin” – a stunning song written by Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues. Elkie covered this superbly. The first half-set was completed by “Lilac Wine”. Although unfamiliar to me, on telling my bus driver on my journey home that I saw Elkie Brooks in concert, he responded by asking if she sang “Lilac Wine”?
The second-half kicks-off with “Love Ain’t Something You Can Get For Free” and “Butterfly Bleu”. Great songs I’m sure if this is your musical bag of delights. The next song though, possibly one of her most renowned songs, “Pearl’s A Singer” must be one of everybody’s favourite, certainly with the audience . As Elkie pointed-out, “When you’ve been singing a song for 42 years it’s lovely when the audience joins in with you”, as indeed they did in Cardiff tonight. Jim Morrison’s classic “Roadhouse Blues” followed and was handled exceptionally well by the band. It was apparent that some members of the audience wanted to dance, perhaps out from their seats, but this mostly failed to reach a critical mass on each attempt. In the interval I detected a degree of frustration, people saying that they wanted to get up and dance but didn’t like to. I think this type of concert would be better placed in a dance venue, such as the Blackpool Tower for example. After all, just because you are no ‘spring chicken’ does not mean that you shouldn’t dance.
I missed the name of the next song, and last of the set owing to ‘Torchgate’ – I have not seen the lady usherette so proactive in all the concerts I have attended at St David’s Hall. It was like a computer video game; rather amusing in fact. As soon as a member of the audience raised a mobile device to record the concert or take a pic, they were promptly zapped by her torch beam. On one occasion, I must have counted half-a-dozen zaps in one minute alone. Ironically, the torch created more disturbances than the mobile devices. Apparently, the staff were given strict instructions on filming. Personally, I don’t think this benefits the artist in today’s interconnected world. This was compounded by the fact that there were no CDs or merchandise on sale at the event.
Moving on, as the band swiftly departed the stage the audience stomped their feet with expectation. Of course, there would be an encore – the songs were listed on a song-sheet the lovely usherette lady handed me before the start of the second-half. For me, quite honestly, this was the best segment of the concert. “A Song For You”, written by the legendary Leon Russel, and made most famous by Ray Charles was incredible and worth the ticket price alone. So emotional. A real treat next with Prince’s “Purple Rain”; a great sax opening and much different to the original virtuoso electric guitar intro by the writer himself. Finally, we end with the beautiful “We’ve Got Tonight”.
Taking in the feel, reactions and comments of the audience (and of course my own thoughts), this was a pretty good concert. Elkie Brooks is certainly a ‘Queen of Covers’ and she can take a great song and make it her own. comprised truly exceptional musicians. If you expected great effects and amazing light shows, then you were in the wrong place – apart from a few echo effects on Elkie’s vocals. This concert was about musical talent and song interpretation. Elkie’s age is certainly no handicap in delivering great songs and I expect her to be performing for some time to come. There was little movement on stage, likewise in the seated audience. This concert should be delivered and would excel with a moving audience. Strictly Come Dancing – make that call! All-in-all, an enjoyable concert and in my opinion Elkie Brooks was the lady who would have been a great choice to have delivered a 007 Bond theme.