Katie Melua - Manchester MEN Arena - 27.1.06

For all the influence of drunken poet Shane McGowan on the duet "Fairytale Of New York" Katie Melua still hasn't grasped on to an ounce of rock'n'roll spirit and it's to her own detriment that by the end of tonight's show she must have been stripped of any degree of respect she had for herself.

The last time we saw her at Salford's Lowry Theatre the ambience was entirely different with Mike Batt at the sidelines cracking jokes about the Wombles and Melua lapping up the attention while possessing the voice of an angel...oh and James Blunt supported her before even his UK record label had any idea who her was. But tonight in the empty cavernous space of the MEN Arena she seems in awe of the sheer size of it all becoming untangled when she's not singing and rambling on nervously about the meanings behind each and every song, but maybe it doesn't help that tonight's audience seem to be strung out on horse tranquillizers oblivious to the fact there's a performance going on.

With 2 albums behind her, "Call Off The Search" and "Piece By Piece", there's a breadth of material to choose from and the set seems like a greatest hits set with cover versions thrown in for good measure. Whereas last time it was "The Closest Thing To Crazy" that the Melua was constantly associated with, it's now "Nine Million Bicycles". These two songs are the only ones that the audience show any degree of movement to despite the attempts during "Blues In The Night" and "Spiders Web" to get the audience to dance.

Throughout tonight's set you get the continual feeling that this show would have worked flawlessly in more intimate surroundings such as the Manchester Apollo. For all her detractors Melua is both technically and emotionally a great vocalist who manages to deliver the songs penned for her with the same enthusiasm as her self penned songs and when someone's singing their heart out it seems wrong to see advertisements for McDonalds, Car Insurance and soft drinks surrounding you whichever way you look.

The likes of Katie Melua and Jamie Cullum have made jazz and classical musical acceptable forms of music to a younger audience, but there's still an inherent conservatism as displayed by tonight's audience that needs to be eradicated before it implodes and people start to look elsewhere. You could say that an audience gets the show it deserves, but the reverse is also true and Katie certainly didn't deserve tonight's audience.

Alex McCann
Photos: Shirlaine Forrest www.shirlainephotos.co.uk

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