Vanessa Knight is the most glamorous thing to come out of Birmingham since Duran Duran. Even her shoes (towering and sparkly ruby slippers) got a round of applause at the Jazz Bar on her opening night. It was clear that Knight has a devoted fanbase and her gigs sell-out world-wide. A very engaging character, she used the first song to explain her method of performance, layering melody, bass, rhythm, backing vocals, strings and then choir onto the loop recorder, then singing and playing the electric piano over this.
‘Better to Hide’ was performed at the grand piano and while it is a pleasant enough song, it shows that Knight’s talent lies more in the music rather than the lyrics for this number. Knight then played a game of ‘Name That Cover Tune’ and one smart audience member won a CD for guessing the tune in just three notes. This gentle version was delightful and the build-up of backing vocals simply lovely.
My favourite song of the set, ‘I Love You More’ was a fun showcase of the instruments Knight can play at least one bar of; tinged with Penguin Cafe Orchestra overtones, it felt immediately familiar and built up to a cacophonic feel-good ending. Next was ‘Lay Down Your Devils’; a poignant song like a modern take on Carole King’s ‘You’ve Got a Friend’. A solo a cappella version of Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’ was cheeky and really rather brilliant, followed by ‘One More Year’ which had heart-rending lyrics and was sprinkled with essence of Vince Guaraldi.Much as it is good to hear the influence of other artists in her work and given that she does come from a generation of borrowers, Knight’s final song, ‘You’ve Got To Love What We’ve Got’ was a direct and disappointing plagiarism of The Rolling Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ complete with audience participation woo-woo’s. Knight concluded an otherwise impressive set with a keyboard flourish worthy of a camp pub singer.