As one of the most iconic members of the 27 club, Amy Winehouse left an indelible impression, not just on popular music, but on popular culture as a whole. Piecing together a tribute night for such a unique performer is a monumental task for any production company. If anyone can pull it off, it is the Night Owl productions, with several successful crowd favourites under their belt.
Reine is an excellent singer with a sulky and soulful voice.
Having seen Johnny Cash and Carole King & James Taylor by Night Owl productions, I’m a big fan of their immersive ‘show-umentary’ format with multimedia materials and interesting stories around the artists’ lives. Unfortunately, Back to Black was a stripped-down version of the successful concept with just short intros about the songs and their origins. One reason was the rather crammed Komedia basement stage, which didn’t leave much room for show elements. The right setting for the show would have been an intimate jazz club with dimly lit tables.
Channelling Amy Winehouse was Reine Beau Anderson Dudley, an excellent singer with a soulful and sulky voice. She has wisely declared to be an Amy Whitehouse tribute act, not an impersonator. There was a stark contrast between Amy’s lyrics and Reine’s delivery. They both came from the same musical background of jazz and sixties music, but whereas Reine was sunny and cheerful, bordering on giddy, Amy was always defiant, bitchy and rebellious. Without Amy’s troubled attitude, the songs are bound to lose some of their edge. Wearing a modest yellow dress, Reine was very much like Amy’s decent sister, the one who went to college, got married and had children.
Backing Reine up was a rather young-looking band who played well, but whose mixing in the first set was terrible, with a too-loud and blunt sound wall. The low basement ceiling didn’t help the sound either. The musician who stood out was the keyboardist and Royal Academy of Music student Harry Whitty. Whitty and Reine had nice chemistry together, evident in their light-hearted chatting and a cute Tony Bennett cover they sang together.
For the first part of the show, the audience sat mainly quietly, clapping politely. Even the performers seemed surprised by the lack of enthusiasm, perhaps they are used to a more cheerful weekend crowd. Performing Amy Winehouse’s catalogue in chronological order wasn’t the best choice, since everyone was waiting for the big hits from Back to Black album. I’m not sure if Amy would have stayed until the second half; she might have run out to find a party somewhere in Kemptown instead.
However, sticking around was worth it, as the band – and their sound – improved when they got to Back to Black hit material. The second set started with Rehab and the audience finally started to react to the music, bobbing their heads, singing along and cheering. Other highlights of the evening were Valerie, Back to Black and Love is a Losing Game. Even though the evening finally changed gears for the second set, the overall impression was an enjoyable but not a very memorable concert. To do justice to Amy Winehouse, the act needs more raw energy and some of the tragic aura surrounding her. When Amy sang 'I’m no good’ we believed her wholeheartedly.