Amy Winehouse - Birmingham N.I.A.

First things first, to all those who are bemoaning the fact they paid twenty big ones (plus booking fee and all that extortionate rubbish) to see tabloid queen Amy Winehouse on her opening night in Brum: what were you expecting? If you think you deserve a refund, I have absolutely no sympathy for you. Sure, the beehived one wasn't firing on all cylinders - and that's a contender for understatement of the year - but I paid the same cash, knowing full well that anything could go wrong. At least she turned up, folks!

Of course, when you're celebrating the fact that the artist you've paid to see has the good sense and, let's not call it anything else, respect to turn up for her audience, then you know you're in for a rocky evening. Fresh-faced young thing Remi Nicole is fun support, despite her zesty pop being at odds with Wino's nu-soul, and deserves our thanks just for making the seemingly eternal wait for the main attraction that bit less laborious. She's half an hour late, stumbling onto the stage at around quarter to ten, but no-one cares; she's here, she's breathing, and surely she's not going to let us down now. Right?

Many of the post-gig reports you'll hear or read would have you believe the entirety of her set was something of a car crash. This is the kind of bullshit, sensationalist journalism that makes a hopeful amateur like me seethe. The truth is, the car was a bit rusty for the first half an hour and didn't plummet and burn until the final stretch. Opening with Addicted, the shockingly tiny-framed Winehouse, dressed in a high-waisted black mini-skirt and black top, proved that she has the voice to fill a venue as vast as the N.I.A. As a live performer, her background in jazz means that she improvises with her vocals, meaning that if she were fully sober, some peeps would be still be pissed off with her refusal to stick to the script. At this stage, though, she sounded okay to me, although the fact that she guzzled down about three pints of an unknown bevvy within the timescale of three songs was an early signifier of the direction this evening was taking. She and her band, including a brass section and her brilliant backing duo (go see her live just for these guys and their funky moves), rifled through tracks from her massive Back to Black album, the title track and Tears Dry On Their Own being the highlights and where Winehouse's vocals hit their peak for the night. Sadly, it all went to the dogs' when she publicly acknowledged this week's Wino-related red-top story.

Dedicating Wake Up Alone to her recently 'incarcerated' husband Blake, she continued to deliver the first verse before breaking down in a mess of tears and struggling to finish the remainder of the song. A similarly tragic Some Unholy War followed suit, and the car was well and truly on its way to becoming a write-off. Understandably, some of the audience were a bit peeved and began booing. Winehouse retaliated by calling this select sector a certain word beginning with 'c', and claiming them to be mugs for buying tickets to her show. Shockingly, she followed this zinger by telling these paying gig-goers that Blake won't be happy when he gets out of prison. Curses and threats surely aren't the way to a fan's heart?

Things picked up with lively versions of Monkey Man and Cupid but it was simply too late to save this show. Hopefully, it's not too late to save the lady herself because seeing her swaying around the stage, dropping the microphone numerous times, and then crashing into her guitar stand was just pitiful. One is torn between wanting to slap her into self-awareness or just wanting to give her a big hug; the second urge is more prominent. The encore, where she decides to change Me & Mr Jones to Me & Mr Blake and then massacres Rehab, slurring about eight words in total over the live backing, is just proof that this lady has become undone. It will be her own fault if she ends up with no fans but surely her entourage can see she's not fit to be doing a nationwide arena tour. It's such a shame because I honestly think the first half of her set was, if not an example of her at her highest powers, proof that she is owner of one of the finest voices we have and a true icon in the making. I guess you can't be iconic without a little scandal, though, and the troubled star's personal problems are sure to continue to affect her career. Who knows? Maybe I'll see her in ten years and she'll be amazing. For now, fans are going to have to make do with her calling them James Blunts.

Category Gig Review

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