Photos by Anna Nathanson, invinciblemag.com
- Tracy Chapman, Brighton Centre, Brighton – By Bella Todd, The Argus
Chapman, who rarely tours, was surprisingly at ease onstage Approximately two minutes in to Tracy Chapman’s first song Why? I was disconcerted to find my seat, umbilically attached to a row occupied by excitably bopping girls, was being jerked violently back and forth.
The general effect was that of being incompetently shagged while listening to your favourite album – an experience to which many a fan of ballads could no doubt testify.
And yet Chapman’s topical yet timeless proclamation against the nonsensicality of famine, war and domestic violence escaped unscathed, just as second number Baby Can I Hold You (requested by newly-weds “Mandy and Ian”) triumphed over the memory of Boyzone’s insipid 1998 cover – the reason, one suspects, for the hefty tweenie contingent.
Supposedly as integral to a woman’s pre-menstrual arsenal as Primark underwear and a DVD of Dirty Dancing, Chapman’s acousticallystrummed soft-rock ballads are in fact made of remarkably sturdy stuff – the topical yet timeless Talkin’ ‘Bout A Revolution drowned the Mexican waves, while her debut single and biggest hit Fast Car overcame the distractions caused by the tweenie to my right texting a running commentary to her friend (“Fst Cr”? God save us).
As for Chapman herself, the drab jumper and jeans offset by a ready grin and long swinging dreadlocks, her subtle command of the minor-key dynamics of relationships neutralised shouts of “Will you marry me Trac-ee?” (“I’ll let you know at the end,” she replied, “I wouldn’t want you to think I haven’t thought about it”).
A far more confident performer than her sparse touring history suggests, Chapman’s sell-out show owed nothing to fashion and everything to her enduring intelligence and integrity. Slinging on an electric guitar and stepping out of her mid-tempo gait to encore with Nirvana’s Teen Spirit, she held the sell-out crowd spellbound with that uniquely warm voice which raises goose bumps like late afternoon sun.
“I got a feeling, feelings don’t lie” she sang on best of the new tracks Talk To You. Hearing Chapman’s ballads in the always-impersonal atmosphere of the Brighton Centre is rather like getting your sex education in the classroom. But I can’t think of anyone better to teach little girls about love.
- TRACY CHAPMAN AT THE BRIGHTON CENTRE!! – By ANNA NATHANSON, Invicible, December 11, 2005
Hearing Tracy Chapman sing live is one of those unique touching experiences that is increasingly rare at concerts these days. Despite her incredible longevity and global fame, she’s an artist who keeps a remarkably low profile, shying away from media attention and preferring instead to let her music speak for itself. And at this closing night of her first UK tour in years, she demonstrated the true power of raw, genuine talent, reminding us what music is really about. Whilst many in today’s industry get sucked in by the seductive bling bling culture and pay as much mind to their image as they do to their actual craft, Chapman is all about the music. Her socially and politically conscious song-writing is as apparent in her new material as it’s always been, with latest track ‘America’ sitting comfortably with previous offerings such as ‘Why’, which she opened with. Classics like ‘Fast Car’ from her iconic first album were performed alongside her new material, such as the powerful ‘Change’, with each song delivered with so much honesty and soul, making for a very intimate atmosphere despite the huge venue.
Chapman first shot to fame overnight in 1988, as a result of playing at Nelson Mandela’s birthday gig, which was televised worldwide. She then went on to record seven studio albums and pick up several Grammy’s in her 18 year career. But the star is almost the antithesis of a diva, dressing down in jeans for her show and often hiding behind her long dreads whilst addressing the audience, especially when timidly introducing her newest tracks. But as soon as her voice took over and she began skillfully playing those signature tunes on her guitar, the crowd was totally mesmerized. The packed out Brighton Centre, with people of all ages and nationalities, was a tribute to her wide appeal. She dedicated the timeless ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ to a couple in the audience who had just got married, by leaving a box in the foyer so fans could post their requests for personal dedications as they walked in. She also burst into a haunting version of ‘House of the Rising Sun’, with the New Orleans lyrics delivered in her poignant manner completely gripping the crowd. But the highlight was saved until last. Although often overshadowed by ‘Fast Car’, ‘Talkin’ Bout a Revolution’ is the song which will always set her apart as a true, if unassuming, icon. And judging by her enigmatic performance of it tonight, Chapman’s message still carries the same charge as her debut all those years ago.