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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
AMY WINEHOUSE Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
February 2nd, March 9th, May 29th 2007
Amy Third time lucky, or so they say, but it doesn’t quite feel like it up here on the second floor of a packed and sweaty Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Amy Winehouse is over thirty minutes late and the audience don’t like it – booing, foot stamping and all that stuff. Some of the out-of-towners are audibly worried about buses and trains home. Some of the younger girls around us (in this highly diverse audience) are taking a tip from their heroine and simply getting plastered – her hit single ‘Rehab’ has become something of an anthem for them and their like. But hang on – Amy’s not thirty minutes late, she’s over three months late.
This gig should have been on 2nd February, but Ms Winehouse postponed. It was rescheduled for 9th March and by the skin of my teeth, I made it to the Bush from Scotland to meet closed doors. Amy had broken a tooth “following a fall” was the excuse, but as tabloid pictures showed, it didn’t stop her from buying wine at Sainsbury’s or boozing in Camden Town pubs. Hot gossip was that she’d split up with her beau. Tonight’s hot gossip – there’s a lot of gossip about Amy - is that she has just married her beau (no – not that one, but the other one from before, who apparently inspired most of the songs on her fantastic album Back to Black). So what? This time it’s been a ferry, car and plane ride from Islay (and horror of horrors, no dinner) to get here on time. On time? Maybe I’m just getting old-fashioned.
A few minutes later, Amy totters out onto the stage and as you might imagine everything is immediately forgiven. It’s a nightclub set-up: ruched curtains, satin-shaded standard lamps and red carpet. Amy’s dressed for the part (as are her dark suited nine-piece band) in a tiny dress, her crown of dark hair tumbling down her tattooed and scarred arms (self-harming apparently). Her legs are painfully thin. Her heels dangerously high. And she’s on a high too. Sir Elton, who was here last night with David (there’s a Gallagher on the other side of the balcony tonight – Noel I think, and a Weller too) proclaims her “the world’s most talented female singer”. She’s just won an Ivor Novello award (her second) for the self-penned ‘Rehab’ and she also picked up the Brit Award for Best British Female Artist – pipping little Lily Allen at the post (much to the delight of many). Lily, you may like to know, has struck back by putting a lot of whine into her grotesquely self-indulgent and self-regarding Myspace blog – “fat, ugly and shitter than winehouse” she wrote recently. But back to Amy – she’s tipped for just about every prize that’s going this year, and of course, like I said, she’s just got married. Sadly, the latest gossip is that after only a month it’s not going too well – as Ms Winehouse wrote, ‘Love is a losing game’.
What with those legs, and those shoes, Amy doesn’t too a great deal of moving (it’s a sort of inhibited shimmy with exotic hand movements), except that is to curtsey painfully (remember the skirt?) to pick up one of two glasses by her monitors. In one, an ever-replenished supply of red wine and in the other, something that looked like Lemsip. She’s got a bit of a throat, or as she explains after singing the Zutons’ ‘Valerie’, “Me voice is going all shitty”. Actually that’s about as eloquent as Ms Winehouse got in the speaking stakes. Every attempt at communication ended in a faded barely articulate mumble. She did manage to introduce us to dad (on the right of the first balcony), and hubby (on the left of the first balcony), and ‘my girls’, who are up there squeaking and squealing with hubby. Hubby, by the way, gets lots of waves, kisses and long languid looks – it’s sometimes as though the audience isn’t there. She talks a little about the songs, which could be interesting, but it all ends up getting lost in the Norf London mumble – “this song’s about, well, I dunno, oh fuck it…” Shame. I’d like to know how a little girl (figuratively) can write such complex and grown up songs. Yes, they’re probably very self-focussed in terms of content but the structure is immensely mature and sophisticated. That comes across even more when you hear the stuff being performed live by a very accomplished band. Amy Winehouse
It’s almost too good, and it makes me wonder what happened between 2004 after the release of her first album Frank and the release of Back to Black at the end of 2006 – did she sell her soul to the devil at the Golders Green and Finchley Road crossroads?
Amy Winehouse
Throat problem or not Ms Winehouse’s voice is a pretty remarkable thing, and she excels on songs such as ‘Back to black’, ‘Tears dry on their own’, and ‘Me & Mr Jones’. And who could imagine having songs like ‘Rehab’ and ‘You know I’m no good’ (with its deliciously aromatic, if not botanical lyric, “sniffed me out like Tanqueray”) at the age of 23? It’s great stuff, and what Ms Winehouse lacks - particularly movement - is made up for by her band and the two singer/dancers who barely stop dancing all night. Pity that it ends with a great song (the Maytals’ ‘Monkey Man’) poorly executed, but maybe her voice had given up by then. Booing and jeering long forgotten, an exhilarated audience made their way happily home across Shepherd’s Bush Green. I certainly wouldn’t have missed this for anything – not any means of transport you care to mention – but I still couldn’t help thinking that three months was just a bit too long to make me wait. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

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