Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Monday, September 15, 2014

Of Ladies Lost & Found: Karen Underwood and John O Brien

‘I want to feel something in the songs whether it be joy or pain’ said Karen Underwood during her show at Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford with pianist John O Brien. The Chicago native has built up quite a following with her tribute show to Nina Simone. She is currently on tour with a show titled, Of Ladies  Lost and Found, with a set list associated with singers who left the world stage too early .  There was volumes of  both emotions and a dollop of humour too  in the duo’s rendition of soulful  songs  made famous by the likes of  Judy Garland, Edith Piaf , Dinah Washington and Billie Holliday, to name but a few.
Opening on a devotional note with the spiritual,  Precious Lord   there was throughout  an unflinching and forthright approach  by singer and accompanist in the distinctive reworking of 20 songs. Underwood has a terrific contralto  voice but doesn’t trade on power and beauty of tone alone.  The long sustained notes sometimes have a rough edge , tempos swing freely and always the sense that the lines come straight from the heart.. The mood was darkest with her stark rendition of Strange Fruit. Her favourite song in the set she admitted was the rather more optimistic  Randy Newman song,  I Think it’s Gonna Rain Today
 She was wonderfully well supported by John O Brien on piano, whose sophisticated arrangements imbued familiar repertoire with a freshness making it sound newly minted.  There was an easy rapport between the two who are long time collaborators and  who clearly relish performing  this repertoire together.  O Brien is best known for his innovative work as musical director of Cork Operatic Society. In an era where electric keyboards have become the norm, it is worth noting that a proper grand piano was in place for the show and O Brien fully exploited the dynamic range of an excellent instrument . I warn you, I am going to go too far’, he declared  and indeed he did,  launching into a bravura version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  Quite unlike any other version you are likely to hear.  It  was terrific!

Further dates : Dolan’s,   Limerick Weds  17th , Kilkenny Watergate Theatre 20th , Cork Everyman  Palace 21st Sept
Set List 1. Precious Lord 2. What a Difference a Day Makes - Dinah 3. God Bless the Child - Billie 4. I Look to You - Whitney 5. Nature Boy - Sarah 6. I Loves You Porgy - Nina 7. Love is a Losing Game - Amy 8. And I Love Him - Esther 9. The Man That Got Away - Judy 10. If You Love Me - Esther/Edith 11. Je Ne Regrette Rien - Edith -------- 12. Kissing You 13. Mad About the Boy - Dinah 14. Over the Rainbow - Judy 15. Lilac Wine - Nina/Eartha 16. Ne Me Quitte Pas - Dusty/Edith 17. I Think It's Gonna Rain Today - Nina/Dusty/Peggy 18. Strange Fruit - Billie 19. Both Sides Now - Joni 20. Feeling Good - Nina 21. Somebody to Love - Freddie

Chat conversation end

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