Under The Night Sky Review
Most people who read this review are likely to only know Kiki Dee from her number one hit with Elton john - Don't Go Breaking My Heart. Others may know her from her award winning performance in Blood Brothers the Willy Russell musical.
However, there is a lot more to her than that. For example, she was the first British White artist to be signed by Tamla Motown, and she has released a total of 39 singles during the last 40 years. Over the last 12 years, she has been working with Carmelo Luggeri and in February last year the duo delivered a 20 track set, that has now been captured for DVD release on 17th March.
The duo have been writing and recording their own songs, as well as working on cover versions of classic numbers, and this is very much a “comeback” for Dee since her recent successful battle with breast cancer.
The concert is recorded in a beguiling, intimate setting with just the singer, the instrumentalist, a keyboard, and a couple of spare guitars on the stage. A setting like this requires some truly arresting performances in order to work, and luckily both artists give a great deal here to capture the interest of the viewer. However, it should be noted that those brought up on the flashy stadium rock shows of the likes of U2, Queen, and MUSE are not likely to find much of interest here. The whole reason to watch this DVD is to watch two talented artists deliver a truly mesmerising performance - and this they do. I like to think I know a little bit about the guitar - but I had never heard of Luggeri before. However, he proves himself to be extremely adept at the instrument, and although I have seen more showy players, his style complements the singer very well indeed, apart from one very obvious and painful misstep that I will mention later on. We get some really nice close-ups of the fret board so we can truly see what he is performing and his expression is that of a man totally in tune with what he is performing.
The singer, Dee, also gives a very natural performance indeed. It is plainly obvious that her voice is not what it used to be in her heyday, and at times she even seems quite hoarse, but it is also obvious that she, like Luggeri, truly believes in the material that she is performing and really does seem to be enjoying the sheer fact that she is still here performing for an appreciative audience. She delivers one lengthy introduction to a song acapella which shows her voice to its best advantage and she also is not afraid to tackle a wide variety of songs, whether originally written for the male or female voice.
The setlist is an eclectic mixture of standards and classics as well as original compositions by the duo. The obvious Don't Go Breaking My Heart is here, with a stunning new arrangement that brings out new dynamics in a song you will be far too over familiar with. Also are covers of songs by artists as diverse as Kate Bush, Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, and Tom Petty. Some of these do work better than other. For example, the set's major misfire is A Very Good Year, the Sinatra standard. As sung by the legend himself, the song is a heartbreaking eulogy to a time gone that can never be recovered, tinged with regret but also the satisfaction of a life well lived. Dee's version starts off in an introspective way, but Luggeri subsequently launches into an uptempo chord fest that simply does not fit the song.
That song may be a low point - but there are many highs. Their cover of Kate Bushes Running Up That Hill is beautiful, and alledgedly loved by Bush herself, and How Sweet it is to be Loved By You may not do anything staggeringly original but is still sung with passion.
The original songs are pleasant enough, including the title song, and Nobody's Child being particularly enjoyable - but the choice of mixing covers in amongst the originals does tend to diminish the original material's impact as they quite simply do not measure up.
However, you will go along way before you see another concert video like this. Yes, there are flaws and some missteps - and at times the voice may not be perfect. But in my opinion, music should not always be a manufactured “product” slick, and presented. Music should be a natural performance between people totally in tune with each other, enjoying what they are doing and imparting this enjoyment to the audience. This DVD may not find a huge audience, but it fulfils these criteria in spades, and those of you who are remotely interested in seeing such a performance are highly recommended to pick a copy of this up.
It should perhaps be noted here, that the pre release copy that we were provided with did not offer the opportunity to watch the whole concert all the way through. Instead, you can watch Part one, or two - or songs individually. This is a unique way of presenting a DVD but perhaps more closely resembles a real concert with an interlude.