Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Voice of the Beehive

Yesterday was - according to the more sensational of the tabloids - "Blue Monday", apparently the most depressing day of the year.

Our little gang was anything but "blue" last night, however. For (thanks to Wayne) we (Paul, little Tony, Bryanne, Simon and two more of Wayne's chums) had tickets to see none other than The Neasden Queen of Soul herself, Miss Mari Wilson singing her own interpretations from the songbook of our most mourned Patron Saint of Soul, Miss Dusty Springfield!

I had never been to the Jazz Café at Pizza Express in Soho before, and it is everything one might expect of its name... Occupying an atmospheric dark basement space that must at one time have played host to some of the more - ahem - "colourful" characters who traditionally inhabited our city's entertainment heartland [although not for very much longer if the bullies and vandals of Westminster Council have their way!], the ambience is utterly suited to intimate cabaret shows. And it serves pizza, of course.

Thus, as we finished off our over-priced Italian street-food, the divine former beehive-wearer took to our stage and captivated us from the outset. Miss Wilson is so loveable, so utterly down-to-earth in the way she engages her audience in chit-chat and asides, it is always a jolt to the senses when she opens her mouth and those marvellously powerful-yet-smooth jazzy vocals take over.

Dusty's music really does suit Mari's voice (unsurprisingly in 2000, Mari was the obvious choice to portray our diva in the hugely successful nationwide tour of Dusty the Musical). All of our favourites were here - I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten, Son of a Preacher Man, The Look of Love, I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself, In Private, Son of a Preacher Man, Some Of Your Lovin', Am I The Same Girl?, Spooky and Brand New Me among them, and she did every one proud in the course of her two-hour set.

Among the highlights were her sublime, slow re-interpretation of I Only Want To Be With You, a truly spine-tingling rendition of Goin' Back, the most beautiful version of How Can I Be Sure?, and, best (and campest) of the lot - her melodramatic arrangement of Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa, which gave her fab pianist an almost "Liszt-ian" moment, as with crescendo after piano crescendo, she twisted every emotion to its fullest ("I hate to do this to you; but I love somebody new. What can I do? And I can never, never, never...go home again..."). I was left utterly breathless. Sheer genius.

This was an unforgettably wonderful evening, and a bloody good way to start off the "Social Calendar" for 2014!

Here is Miss Wilson with just two of the numbers she sang for us last night:

How Can I Be Sure?

I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten

Mari Wilson official website


  1. It was a great night, musical highlight for me was Goin' Back - I love the little details in your review, the over-priced Italian street food that give a real indication of the night to those that weren't there.

    Look forward to seeing most of the crowd again on Friday x

    1. Thanks, dear - so good to see you, even if it was only across a dimly lit plate of dough-balls. See you Friday at Polari! Jx

  2. Great blog Jon! I've shared with Mari...

    Looking forward to Friday! x


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