Voices of Angels – Judie Tzuke and her daughters

October 22nd, 2010

It’s been a trying few days, as you’ll see from the immediately preceding post, but on Sunday I had something to take my mind off  things – something I’d been looking forward to for ages. Not one, not two, but three lovely blonds with voices to die for. The Tzuke family was in town playing the Queens Hall.

Now I’ve had a few disappointments in the Queens Hall, as a former sound engineer I know the acoustics are a bit weird and not really suited for rock. So I was a bit worried when I saw the  tour schedule, and the first support did nothing to ease my fears – there was a nasty resonance in the low mid-range which obscured David Saw’s vocals a bit. A pity as he had a gentle humour to his songs that deserved a better platform. He certainly won over the audience when he described the experience of writing with Judie as having received a masterclass in songwriting.

I was sad to see that the hall wasn’t full – I remember when Judie could fill the 2000 seat Playhouse and she really deserves far wider support. Maybe all the intelligent fans have emigrated!

Happily the engineer had got a better handle on the acoustics by the time Bailey Tzuke came on with sister Tallulah and the band. Bailey has grown into a really confident performer and her voice is developing all the time. I can’t wait to hear her in a big concert hall with more open acoustics, as her dynamic range is just straining to be let loose. Her set was mainly rockier arrangements and, although I enjoyed it immensely, in some ways I’d have liked to hear some more of the gentler solo songs such as the lovely Mind of a Boy. However she did include Fish, which I was astonished to learn was the first song she ever wrote. An amazingly complex song for a first effort with a delightful background rhythm.

A quick word about Tallulah; if anything I do believe she may be growing to be the most attractive of the three – which for anyone who remembers Judie at her bonniest and has seen how stunning Bailey is now is quite a compliment. She has a lovely fine bone structure, the family hair, and though still a little shy she has a gorgeous smile. I don’t have children but she looks to be everything you’d like your daughter to be.

After the interval during which I had a brief chat with Jamie during which he said he’d never heard Judie singing better, we came to the main event. Judie came on looking more confident than I’ve seen her for ages. Maybe because she’s now so widely acclaimed as a songwriter, or maybe knowing that Bailey is growing into a star has taken the pressure off a little. Whatever the reason it was good to see and and, as we were to discover, it seemed to allow her to really let loose that wonderful voice. The band was a slight departure – the first time I can remember a line-up with two guitarists. And one of them plus the bassist sported the best quiffs I’ve seen since the 60’s!

The opening number fairly rocked – a good loosener – but things really ramped up in the second and third songs. Under the Angels and Secret Agent are amongst my favourite albums and the two titles tracks amongst my favourite ever studio songs. They both have a testing range and phrasing which makes them ambitious songs to schedule so early in a gig unless you’re on top form. Judie was. Angels was one of those hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck moments – it soared, it vibrated with energy and the top notes were as pure as I’ve heard them and delivered with complete control and assurance. Secret Agent if anything was even better – it had a power and an emotion behind it, and midway through I realised that I had tears running down my cheeks. Maybe it was partly the emotions of my last couple of weeks coming out but it was an awful lot to do with the fearless openness that seemed to characterise Judie’s singing.

The bar had been set high, and it would have been easy to have dropped from that level of quality. In fact as anyone who has played gigs knows you have to balance the showstoppers with the simpler or less dramatic songs or everything becomes the same and you lose the contrasts and dynamic range. Faith maintained the quality while allowing some of that essential contrast and then Submarine Boy brought another aspect. Part-way through it there was a remarkable interplay between Judie and Bailey using their voices as instruments in a sort of call and response mode that was quite beautiful. I’m not sure if the idea was deliberate but it immediately reminded me of whale song.

Joan of Arc was next and was clearly a popular choice. I recall it being a highlight of a show a couple of tours ago in Glasgow, but here I felt it suffered slightly from being a little too similar to the early  brilliance – not that it was in any way bad or less than well-sung – just that a little more contrast might have been better.

Edinburgh audiences can be notoriously slow to respond but by this time things were really warming up and we were treated to a variety of new and old to hoots and hollers of enthusiasm despite a predominantly older audience – hey we old folks can still rock! The band were turning on the heat too, a good old fashioned guitar solo being well appreciated.

I didn’t manage to write down all the songs played and am probably missing a couple but it was all just turning into a feast of pleasure by then. Bring the Rain has long been a favourite and was a delight to hear again while Vivien was one that fairly raced along. It seems that Bailey has many favourites amongst the albums from before she was even born and it was interesting to see that in some of them she and Judie were almost singing twin lead. The looks of sheer fun that passed between the three girls were great to see.

Sukarita is another old favourite with many fans, then the inevitable Stay With Me Till Dawn (“my one hit”) and, praise be, Sportscar – my fave driving accompaniment – brought the audience to their feet as the set closed. Of course they weren’t getting away that easy and they soon returned for two of the high points of the night.

For You was always a special song – with the three of them singing together layers that Judie used to multitrack it brought more tears to the eyes. It must be a very special feeling for Judie to have her daughters with her for that, a family in genuine harmony. But there’s now another song to bring a lump to the throat – If – inspired by the Rudyard Kipling poem and with Judie and Bailey weaving in and out together effortlessly hitting perfect notes it was impossible not to feel a range of overpowering emotions.

One last encore -a joyous Choices You’ve Made,  apparently Bailey knows the words better than Judie! – and they were gone. But unlike the last tour when many of us worried we’d never see another one, this time we were promised more to come in the future. They seemed to be having so much fun, and although by the next time Bailey will surely be headlining her own shows and Tallulah may be pursuing her own career (in I believe film making) it would be wonderful for them and us if they were together again.

Thank you Judie, for a lifetime of glorious songs and wonderful singing, and for giving us the next generation of Angels to carry on the creativity. Come back soon.

Entry Filed under: Music and Theatre,Personal

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Chuck Padgett  |  October 23rd, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Tallulah reminds me of actress Mika Boorem. Wish she had done “Choices You’ve Made” in London. It was on the set list but the curfew prevailed.

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