(Royal Albert Hall. 5th November. Review by Rob Edgar)
Patricia Kaas‘s Royal Albert Hall concert marked the precise date of the 50th anniversary of the death of Edith Piaf. Part of a world tour, the concert featured a collection of Piaf’s best known tunes re-orchestrated by Polish composer Abel Korzeniowski (who studied under maestro Krzysztof Penderecki). The concert was also the official launch of the French singer/ actor’s album Kaas chante Piaf (French EMI).
From the outset with Mon Dieu, it was very much Kaas’s show. Her voice is distinctive, smokier and slightly deeper than Piaf’s. The show was carefully produced and choreographed and featured dancing (courtesy of Kaas and a contemporary dancer) and films and images (some of which had never been seen before) of Piaf broadcast on the screen behind her. The intro to Milord also displayed the acting – appealing, if unashamedly over the top – of the Lorraine-born diva.
Milord was also the most interesting piece musically; instead of the usual jaunty cabaret style backing, Korzeniowski slowed it right down and transposed it into a minor key giving a dark and perhaps ironic meaning to the song. Padam Padam was another highlight, but the anthemic chorus was muddied by the Albert Halls’s acoustic and it was difficult sometimes to hear the pulse of the music.
She sang to a pre-recorded backing track made earlier by Korzeniowski, of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which, at times, left the performance a little rigid and the arrangements, though lush and well executed, were often reminiscent of a Howard Shore film score; the hall’s sound did nothing to help either; at times it was impossible to hear her violinist.
The substantial Kaas fan-base in the hall had no such quibbles: I counted three standing ovations at the end of the night and at one point an audience member approached the stage with a bouquet of flowers! For those that enjoy elaborate stage shows, theatrical singing and dancing and the concept of the “diva” it would be a shame to miss.