Cabaret and variety review: Peter Straker Sings Brel

We are in good company this evening. 'I'm very happy to be here in the Spiegeltent. I think Brel and Marlene Dietrich both performed here and they are still around,' says Straker, his pale blue eyes scanning the stained glass around the roof.

Star rating: ****

Venue: The Famous Spiegeltent (Venue 87)

He has also brought along a beautiful Japanese kimono, given to him by his good friend Freddie Mercury, who died, he tells us, 25 years ago.

And he recreates the song he sang at the funeral of his friend, the great pantomime dame Freddie Lees.

Now 72 years old, Straker is a great survivor. Never as famous as he might have been, the Jamaican-born singer is one of the world’s greatest interpreters of the songs of Jacques Brel.

Accompanied by the wonderful Gulliver Ralston on grand piano, Straker gives us a stripped down Brel which looks a little under-rehearsed at times but is nonetheless dripping with class.


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Straker’s rich and ­extraordinary voice, with its huge range, sends ­shivers down the spine, while his interpretation of the lyrics brings the dirty, sexy world of Brel vividly alive.

You can almost smell the engine oil and fishheads when he sings Amsterdam, while his virtuosic, dizzying rendition of Carousel makes you feel the Spiegeltent is spinning around you.

Like all great singers, ­Straker brings his own sorrow, passion and joy to the music, flooding the dusky shadows with emotion.

And he joyfully invites the audience to misbehave – suggesting we join him in singing The Middle Class Are Pigs – which feels like a revolutionary act in the heart of ­Edinburgh’s New Town.

When he sings I’m Still Here, the words are both a celebration and a lament.

Straker, like Brel, is a man who is not afraid to stare mortality in the face.


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