Scottish singing sensation Barbara Dickson brought her Time is Going Faster Tour to King Georges Hall in Blackburn, the first time she played at the beautiful venue in decades.
Dickson delighted the audience with her diverse setlist, singing a mixture of folk songs, new music, and songs from her extensive catalogue, such as her hit ‘January, February’. She also treated us to a couple of musical theatre songs: first a song from Blood Brothers (she originated the role of Mrs Johnston) and later Another Suitcase in Another Hall (she sang the song on the concept album for Evita).
The latter, a criminally underrated ballad, is one of my all-time favourite musical theatre songs. Some people might be more familiar with Madonna’s cover (from the film adaptation of the stage musical), which, though inferior, was a bigger hit.
It was a real treat seeing Dickson sing that song, up there with seeing Jennifer Hudson sing And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going and Nicole Scherzinger sing Memory. I wish she had sang I Know Him So Well – her duet with Elaine Paige OBE for the Chess concept album and her only number 1 – though she might have wanted a mezzo-soprano female to sing that with, and her backing singers were both male.
Alas, Dickson still delivered a satisfying setlist, albeit a little slow. That’s the only real criticism I have: it was clear that the audience preferred the more upbeat songs; Dickson might have added a few more of these. Perhaps her best performance was her wonderful rendition of ‘The Witch of the Westmorland’.
Another highlight was her headstrong cover of the horrifying ‘The Ballad of the Speaking Heart’. After this, she went straight into ‘Another Suitcase’, telling us afterwards that she threw that in there in case we were traumatised by the previous song!
The concert, though beautiful, was quite heavy, in both content and themes, so I’m glad that it was broken up with a 20-minute interval. Dickson even had a dress change, which was delightful. She really looked the part, her elegant clothes complimenting her ethereal voice.
Even at 74 years of age, she still sings so beautifully; her voice has aged so well, becoming richer and meatier. There are many singers out there who could learn a thing or two from Dickson. Far too many pop singers strain and damage their voices with inadequate training and bad vocal techniques. Dickson has truly cherished her gift.
I must also give a shout out to her wonderful band. Made up of four men, they created the most marvellous, melodious music. They were not playing for Dickson, per se, but, rather, playing along with her. Dickson repeatedly complimented her band – especially Troy Donockley, her Musical Director, who she seemed to be particularly fond of. I loved that the second and final song of the encore was a ferocious instrumental piece, allowing not only the men but also Dickson to show off their ability to make magic out of musical instruments. It was the most marvellous end to a mostly mellow concert.
Whilst I might have liked a few more meaty songs in the setlist, the mellifluous music that made up the most prominent part of the concert actually helped to make the heavier songs – those which you might clap along too – all the more special.
Whilst the setlist was dark and mellow, Dickson was quite clearly chuffed to be back on the road and appreciative of all the people who had come out to see her. She had even signed most of the merchandise at the stall!
It was a real privilege getting to see Dickson up-close and personal, in a gorgeous, intimate venue just miles from my hometown. For a small amount of time, I struggled to see her – when she was sat at the back of the stage, and Troy cut her off from a small fraction of the audience. That did not take away from the aural experience, though: Dickson’s vocals are a true delight.
Barbara Dickson continues her UK tour until May.