Dartford's Orchard Theatre
If chic chanteuse Elkie Brooks is feeling the effects of advancing years there was no sign of it at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre on Saturday.
She skipped on stage to join her slick six-piece band and held the audience spellbound throughout the evening, showing why she is regarded by many as the British Queen of Blues and having me pondering why I had neglected to see her perform live before.
Brooks engages with audiences so easily that she has them eating out of the palm of her hand throughout. She also has a unique stage presence, going walkabout, leaping in the air, waving regally and constantly paying homage to her magnificent musicians.
Born Elaine Bookbinder in Salford in 1945, it is no surprise she found a more showbiz name. After her early years in Vinegar Joe with the late Robert Palmer her solo career took off in the mid-1970s with a string of hits.
There were no long drawn-out anecdotes during her show, but she is not averse to the odd saucy quip in her husky Mancunian accent. When she hit 50, she informs, a facelift was rejected in case it affected her voice. “After 65, you don’t give a ---,” she declared to the delight of her fans.
Some may just know her for chart successes such as Pearl’s A Singer, Lilac Wine, No More The Fool, Fool (If You Think It’s Over), Don’t Cry Out Loud and Sunshine After The Rain, all of which were given a welcome airing.
But she also has a knack of putting her own stamp on other classics. Among those we were treated to were The Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin, Rod Stewart’s Gasoline Alley and Prince’s Purple Rain.
We marvelled at her ability to hold one especially lung-bursting note and the sheer range of her voice, complete with echo, which has matured like a fine wine.
There were moments when the hair on the back of the neck didn’t just stand up, but shot to attention. One was the aforesaid Nights in White Satin and another was her A capella version Paul Carrack’s I Can’t Make You Love Me as part of the encore.
Stevie Jones added to the many memorable moments with his sublime sax and showed his enterprising side by toting signed copies of his own CD in the interval.
Brooks gave Jones and the other band members - Brian Badhams (bass guitar), Melvin Duffy (lead guitar), Andrew Murray (keyboards), Lee Noble (keyboards) and Michael Richardson (drums) - a well-deserved hug at the end.
There may not have been much dancing in the aisles but the reverential standing applause spoke for itself.