MUSIC: Beverley Knight | Rating: **** | Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
This dynamic, funky show was a reminder of why she’s so revered. Though she knows her soul history, she never comes across as earnestly respectful. Recorded in Memphis, her new album, Soulsville, confirms her natural place in the pantheon.
Her first album was released in 1995, and yet this was, remarkably, her Edinburgh debut. As her exuberant soul-pop shimmied across the pews of the Queen’s Hall – “We are literally taking it to church!” – she was clearly making up for lost time.
Supported by a four-piece band and three backing singers, she avoided the over-arrangements of so much ersatz vintage soul. Instead she cooked up an authentic-sounding Stax groove on the likes of Middle of Love from Soulsville. On her cover of the Ann Peebles classic Can’t Stand the Rain, she almost equalled the feline rawness of the original.
Also covered were hits by two recently departed greats. Alphabet Street, her joyous tribute to Prince – whom she supported during his O2 residency – was inevitable, but her Earth, Wind and Fire medley, played in honour of Maurice White, was more touching. After all, as she observed, his passing was almost overshadowed by the sad plethora of celebrity deaths which surrounded it.
That her own material didn’t suffer by comparison is testament to the strength of an artist who should never be taken for granted.