Originally published on So So Gay on 14 February 2013.
With the BRIT awards around the corner, it seems fitting to shine the spotlight back on to one of its previous winners. In 1992, following on from her biggest and most well-known hit ‘Promise Me’ – which helped to propel her self-titled début album up the charts (eventually selling over a million copies and spending almost the entire year on the album chart) – Beverley Craven won the BRIT Award for Best British Newcomer.
While, to many, the British singer/songwriter’s name may be synonymous with her biggest single – since repeating the success of ‘Promise Me’ has sadly eluded her thus far – Beverley Craven has in fact released three further studio albums over the years. Spaced out by the commitment of becoming a mother to her three daughters and battling breast cancer, the latter she thankfully seems to have overcome, Beverley released her fourth and most recent album, Close to Home, in 2009. Her current tour takes a selection of songs from all four albums.
The Chapel in Stratford is a delightfully cosy performance space, attached to the No.1 Shakespeare Street bar & restaurant. A slightly raised stage awash with subdued lighting is surrounded by a number of tables and booths which, when we turned up a few minutes before Beverley’s 8.30pm start, were pleasingly full. Walking on stage in an unassuming manner, Beverley took her position at the keyboard and began chatting informally with the audience. Her brilliantly dry sense of humour was immediately apparent, which was an entirely unexpected but most welcome revelation. One of her opening lines to the audience was, ‘I know you’ve paid good money to be here tonight, but this is about me. This is my therapy’. Far from feeling forced or an act, trying to shoehorn witty asides into her performance, this was clearly Beverley’s naturally funny persona.
As tends to be the benefit of performances at smaller venues, virtually every song on the two hour set was given a little bit of back story before Beverley went on to perform it. Some were pleasing incidental details that added to the appreciation of the song – such as ‘Woman to Woman’ which was written about her friend Alison Goldfrapp who kept abandoning her every time she found a new man – while others were genuinely amusing. A particular highlight was the story behind one of our favourite tracks, ‘Love Scenes’, which exemplified Beverley’s way with words and comic timing. The song itself was inspired by an actor who broke her heart (‘I wanted to call it ‘You Complete Bastard.”), a gentleman who she has since Googled, ‘…but nothing came up… Which was nice.’ Cue much laughter from the audience. Her acerbic sense of humour juxtaposed with her smooth and easy-going compositions somehow worked perfectly.
Aside from the intimate setting giving an enjoyable window into Beverley Craven’s personality, the music – which is after all what gigs should really be about – was unsurprisingly top class. Beverley’s soft and soothing vocal delivery is just as good as it was on her début album, which is scarily 23 years old now. With all the songs being penned by her own fair hand, the performances were full of heart and soul. During touching moments, like ‘Mollie’s Song’ and ‘Without Me’, you can understand how songwriting is therapeutic for musicians, even if Beverley’s initial remark was slightly flippant. Beverley’s sense of humour once again appeared, this time to soften the seriousness of ‘Without Me’, which she wrote for her three girls just after being cleared of breast cancer: ‘This song is probably the saddest one I’ve ever written. I ought to be sponsored by Kleenex’, prompting some chuckling from the audience, ‘You may laugh, in 1993 I was actually sponsored by Tampax. … For a short period’, which was met with a mixture of laughter and amused groaning. ‘Yeah, I usually get a groan there.’
The 20-track set list was made up of an even spread of songs from Beverley Craven, Love Scenes and Close to Home, though Mixed Emotions was strangely under-represented, with only ‘I Miss You’ included. If forced to find fault with an otherwise perfect evening, this would be it. In particular, it was a great shame she didn’t include the excellent ‘Move On’ which is another firm favourite. That said, it was only a post-show review of the set list that unearthed the lack of Mixed Emotions content, so it didn’t detract from the show by any means, since Beverley Craven’s back catalogue is full of wonderful songs.
Throughout the entire set, bar one or two numbers where she performed alone, Beverley was ably supported on stage by Frank Reid. Chop-and-changing between an assortment of instruments, he was like a one-man-band, though he particularly shone when performing on the saxophone. The pair performed effortlessly in sync. Beverley also graciously took a step back a couple of times during the set to let Frank take centre stage, subsequently encouraging the audience to applaud his musical talent – in particular after his breathless saxophone solo that drew the opening number of the second act, ‘Two of a Kind’, to a close.
In an age where the current big stars spend millions and charge millions for a show which is full of complex choreography and pyrotechnics, it was thoroughly enjoyable to bear witness to a high class evening of beautiful songs and impressive musicianship, tied together by a charming and witty artist. If you’re after a delightful and engaging evening of soothing music you will struggle to beat Beverley Craven on one of her tour dates.
Fun, Fun, Fun
Love is the Light
Woman to Woman
Make You Mine
Ready to Fall in Love
– interval –
Two of a Kind
Feels Like the First Time
I Miss You
Your Girl, My Man
You Never Did Love Me
Lost Without You
To find out where Beverley Craven will be performing next on her tour and buy tickets visit her official website.