At times, the sense of intimacy evoked by Madeleine Peyroux’s set felt out of balance with the huge space of the Usher Hall. Even onstage, she and her three supporting players on drums, double bass and grand piano were grouped in a tight unit which barely took up half the available space.
Occasionally, she seemed unsure of the audience’s response; at one point she introduced a song intended to “warm up… those of you who have cooled down”. She needn’t have been concerned though. The audience here had clearly had Peyroux in their life for a long time, with this Careless Love Forever tour celebrating her hugely successful 2004 breakthrough second album of the same name.
Rescheduled from last year’s Covid-cancelled date, the show gave a broad overview of a career which has comprised eight albums in total, although the distinctive cover version arrangements from Careless Love remain the French-American’s her stock-in-trade.
Here, she performed her tender signature version of Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me To The End Of Love, Bob Dylan’s You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, Elliot Smith’s Between The Bars and the blues standard Careless Love itself, which she amusingly introduced as an exercise in musical contraception.
Stepping away from her most famous record, there were also covers of Tom Waits’ (Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night and Billie Holiday’s God Bless The Child. Another standard, There’ll Be Some Changes Made, rolled with a train song groove, and Peyroux’s own Don’t Wait Too Long floated through the room, emphasising her voice’s perfect positioning between a jazz and a country sound. The show’s air of politeness gave way at the end to a wave of affection, with a long and deserved standing ovation.