08 December 2018 (gig)
14 December 2018
Curiosity, as well as killing the cat, has made me venture forth to the famous Blue Note club in Milan, and check out a most successful 80’s band, Swing Out Sister.
I was surprised to learn that this is not some kind of comeback as I imagined but rather, the band , still with its original members of singer Corrine Drewery and keyboardist Andy Connell, the songwriters of all their their big hits, have continued making albums all through the 90’s and indeed the new millennium! They are indeed touring and so promoting, their latest album ‘Almost Persuaded’.
Playing tonight at the Blue Note intrigued me as it seemed to suggest the duo have evolved somehow from the very 80’s synth and horns sound that characterized their songs, to something else, hopefully more profound I might add.
Saying that, the 1987 album ‘It’s Better To Travel’ was one of the most played albums of the 80’s, spawning 3 massive singles, ‘Breakout’, ‘Surrender’ and ‘Twilight World’ (all of which will be played tonight) making sure that SOS will remain in pop’s history books.
As with all the Blue Notes around the world, they will play two sets tonight (I am at the first show) and as is protocol, they hit the stage at exactly 21.00hrs.
Corrine is more or less the same as I remembered her from the videos, older for sure but with the same bob styled hair and indeed she cuts a cool figure. She speaks a very commendable Italian too to her credit which endears her instantly to the crowd. Andy, rather more portly and settled into middle age let us say, takes to the electric organ and with him a drum and bass section made up of two younger black guys Myke and Juneroy, a backing/second singer Gina, Tim Cansfield on jazz guitar, who has been with them from the early days and percussionist, Jody. No synths, no horns!
It’s clear however from the off that the band have been playing together for a while. Songs are interpreted in a way that is closer to pop/acid jazz than pop/electronica. They seem comfortable with it too, even changing the big hits this way so a more soulful jazz beat is created, drums, percussion and bass swinging the songs along, some nice jazz licks on guitar.
Corrine sings well, maybe not a very strong voice but with help from Gina it’s a satisfying combo and there are some classy vocal harmonies.
Highlights are ‘Am I The Same Girl’, ‘Feel Free’ but two songs really stand out in the set for me. ‘Incomplete Without You’ is a really strong song from the 1992 album ‘Get In Touch With Yourself’ but performed as an ensemble magnificently tonight with attitude and punch. Also the encore ‘Breakout’ is superb, played ala Stevie Wonder (think ‘I Wish’), and so it has a tight soulful groove with the classic vocal hook over the top, surprising me as its given a new emphasis and not simply trotted out.
Indeed the band do seem not to be going through the motions at all, and as they take a team bow at the close, its quite clear that creating and playing music is not about getting chart hits and temporary fame but rather the pleasure and gratification that is visible tonight, comes mainly thanks to the grafting and hard work done behind the scenes with the hope of satisfying a paying but appreciative crowd, as indeed Swing Out Sister did tonight.
Don’t Give The Game Away
Happier Than Sunshine
You On My Mind
Incomplete Without You
Woman Of The World
Am I The Same Girl?
Stoned Soul Picnic