It can be difficult to pigeonhole Charlotte Church. Throughout her career, started at the tender age of 11, this fiery Welsh girl has been a classic opera singer, tabloid darling, pop sensation. She is perhaps the only person in the world who can brag about dueting with Amy Winehouse, Nelly Furtado and The Police (only to name a few) or singing in front of the Queen, Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul II. To say that we were excited at the chance to see her performing live would be an understatement.
Her show, part of a selected number of gigs that Charlotte is currently performing to support her new EP called O N E, takes place at the infamous Monto Water Rats in London’s King’s Cross – a venue, we’re told, that hosted an incredible number of ‘serious’ performers, including Bob Dylan, Oasis and Skunk Anansie. A temple of rock, basically. Our Converse and designer bags are slightly out of place here, but never mind – we’ve been waiting for far too long (seven years!) to see Charlotte Church live on stage, and it’s not gonna be a wrong outfit choice to stop us from fully enjoying the evening.
Dressed modestly in a white blouse and jeans, her sun-streaked hair tied in an unruly bun, Charlotte takes the stage quietly and opens the gig with The Rise, followed by Say It’s True, two powerful, uplifting pieces taken from her new EP. Both tracks are laid with a folky drum beat and bare her rock-chick soul. Charlotte belts through them effortlessly, something she’ll keep doing again and again throughout the evening.
A big chunk of the repertoire she presents is autobiographical: Mr. The News was clearly written for Rupert Murdoch after her involvement in the notorious News International phone hacking scandal, whilst Judge from Afar, in her own words, “was written after I thought it’d be a good idea to check out one of those fabricated Daily Mail articles online. Even worse, I scrolled through all the comments at the bottom”.
The most intimate moment comes with How Not to Be Surprised When you’re a Ghost, an introspective number which winks to the early Kate Bush in which an enigmatic Charlotte exudes understated elegance (and if you haven’t done already, check out the quirky video, where she is caught wandering through a dreamy setting in between Oz and Wonderland. A diamond.)
There are no enhancements in this show: no screens, no smoke, no costume changes- the lass from Cardiff has enough personality to fill the room. In fact, she is really funny – it’s easy to see how she was given her very own TV chat show to host, years ago. In all honesty, the series of one-liners she came up with in between songs made us miss those days.
Noticeably, Charlotte decides to be out with the old and cuts off all the hits that the public knows her for. There is no space for Crazy Chick, Back To Scratch or even (sigh!) Call My Name – and our pop-loving soul dies just a little bit with that one. Nevertheless, it’s a brave choice indeed – a sign of total reinvention from the artist, of wanting to break away from a past which she obviously does not identify with anymore.
Besides, her new material is beautifully refined – haunting and empowering in equal measure. This is a completely new direction for Charlotte’s music, encompassing elements from her previous operatic classical, rock and pop performances of the past and portraying her in a more mature, individual light.
The voice of an angel is still there. And so are the sass, the candour, and the raw talent that always characterised her. Charlotte Church has simply grown up. And something tells us this is just the beginning.
Say It’s True
Mr. The News
Call It Off
Come To Me
How Not To Be Surprised When You’re a Ghost
Judge From Afar
Breach Of The Peace
Charlotte will continue touring the UK this Autumn:
- Thu 18 Oct – Swn Festival, Dempseys, Cardiff
- Sat 20 Oct – Bobgain Barn, Inverness
- Mon 22 Oct – King Tuts, Glasgow
- Wed 24 Oct – Electric Circus, Edinburgh
- Thu 25 Oct – O2 Academy, Liverpool