Six months on since we last caught up with her – at The Lowry in Salford – Judie Tzuke’s Songs And Stories tour continues to wend it’s way happily around the UK. It’s her most extensive tour for decades, crisscrossing the country for 12 months with the only prolonged break in August.
But both logistically, and commercially, there are big advantages going on the road with an entourage that includes not much more than 2 acoustic guitars, a tablet (with lyrics and setlist), and an overnight bag. And the ‘songs and stories’ format – pretty similar to that of TV’s ‘An Audience With… ‘ has proved increasingly popular with ‘sold out’ signs going up pretty much everywhere as the tour has progressed.
It turns out, the Salford gig – with guitar / piano accompaniment – was something of a ‘one off’ with long term collaborator Graham Kearns being otherwise engaged that night. So the Bury line up of Judie supported by daughter Bailey, Kearns and Chaz Thorogood (who doubles as warm up) on acoustics was more typical of the tour as a whole.
Once she’d got the dust out of her vocal chords and Kearns had overcome some tuning issues on the slightly shaky opener ‘Welcome To The Cruise’, it was plain sailing through a set that balanced the past (‘Welcome To The Cruise’, ‘Stay With Me Till Dawn’, ‘For You’, ‘Ladies Night’, ‘Bring The Rain’), present (‘If’, ‘So Emotional’, ‘Venus’) and future (‘Lifeline’ – a new number recently written with Thorogood), as well as a few curve balls – a wonderful cover of ‘Woodstock’, Bailey covering Alanis Morissette’s ‘Uninvited’, and the Lucie Silvas hit ‘Breathe In’ (co-written by Judie and Kearns).
The question and answer interludes add a certain charm and intimacy to proceedings, but at the risk of exposure to some pretty ill-considered interjections. No, she didn’t think – having known Phil Lynott and the Lizzy boys – that she wanted to see Limehouse Lizzy. Her favourite album of her own? She sidestepped that neatly by declaring herself proud of them all.
But, the worst – ‘Judie, we’ve gotta go now, can you play Sleep With Me Tonight?’ Too polite to decline, she duly obliged, but was clearly flustered by the diversion and felt the need to play ‘Stay With Me Till Dawn’ a second time in its planned place in the set list.
The unplugged format does however allow both her songs and her vocals – to which the years have added a timbre of vulnerability – to shine. You could hear a pin drop during the achingly confessional ‘If’, and songs like ‘Bring The Rain’ – stripped bare – and ‘For You’ were beautiful both in the simplicity of their construction and delivery.
What this tour proves is that Judie should have no fears about going out on the road with minimalist accompaniment. Her writing and singing is more than able to stand that degree of scrutiny and, in many instances, benefits from it. As for the ‘chat’, Judie comes across as gracious, humble, and just plain ‘nice’. But she does like a ‘natter’, and she just needs to ensure that doesn’t get in the way of what she does best.
Set list: Welcome To The Cruise / All At Sea / Woodstock / So Emotional / Enjoy The Ride / Ladies Night / May You Never / Uninvited / Venus / Breathe In / Stay With Me Till Dawn / Lifeline / Bring The Rain / If / Stay With Me Till Dawn / For You.
Review by Pete Whalley
Photos by David Randall
Gig review (10 May 2015)
UK tour dates (2015)
Thu 19 The Courthouse, Otley otleycourthouse.org.uk
01943 467 466 SOLD OUT
Fri 20 Town Hall, Selby selbytownhall.co.uk
01757 708 449 SOLD OUT
Sat 21 The Ropewalk ,Barton the-ropewalk.co.uk
01652 660 380 SOLD OUT
Sat 5 Theatre, Windlesham, Surrey www.windleshamclub.org.uk
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