Celeste at Union Chapel
While Celeste’s recordings are excellent, her work takes on a new, magical dimension when performed live. The American-British singer-sonwriter, winner of a 2019 BBC Music Award and BRITs Rising Star Award 2020, is a promising leading light at 27. Often compared to Amy Winehouse and Adele with her sultry jazz-pop, soul and blues, she is a powerhouse of talent and potential.
Tonight the artist hosts her first public show in two years at Union Chapel – “there is so much life in every corner” – and she speaks of her apprehension of being in the spotlight after the privacy of lockdown, as well as how her mutual affection with the audience reassures her. Feminine and a little vulnerable, she is at times gentle as she croons a love song, at others strong, dynamic, sassy. Her singing is driven by honesty and raw emotion, though she is always in control of her craft.
Alternated with the live show are vignettes of rehearsals and intimate conversations with the viewer, as if the vocalist is in a tête-à-tête with friends. Celeste clearly has a warm, supportive relationship with her superb band – on bass, saxophones, trumpet, cello, percussion, keyboard, and guitars.
The stirring, beautifully nuanced Ideal Woman opens the concert – characterised by the artist as self-descriptive – and a voluptuous, dynamic, bluesy Lately follows, showcasing her incredible voice and impressive range.
Both Sides of the Moon is smooth, sensual and tender, the singer’s vocal tone strongly reminiscent Winehouse. Expressive and performed with passion, it’s a great song with the sound of a classic. Father’s Son – about her own father, who died when she was 16 – is a haunting, innovative, personal composition, opening with a compelling saxophone solo (Kaidi Akinibi).
Channelling Billie Holiday, the sweet, heartfelt Beloved has a bluesy jazz retro vibe, while in The Promise Celeste’s vocal modulation recalls a softer version of Winehouse. The exceptional, rousing Stop This Flame – brilliant smokey blues with soaring singing by the performer – speeds up to a joyful fiery rock tempo. The outstanding Some Goodbyes Come With Hello is a mellow, melancholic love ballad that conjures French New Wave cinema romanticism.
With a touch of Motown, Celeste’s voice soars in the vibrant Love is Back, and Kiss is another charming, breathless and contemplative love tune. The title track from the album Not Your Muse – about people trying to make you something you are not – again shows off her powerful, gorgeous sound. Named by the artist as a favourite, the wistful Strange speaks of how odd it is that people can change “from strangers to friends to lovers, and strangers again”. Encore track This Is Who I Am is a beautifully written, stunning, volcanic piece and provides a fittingly spirited finale.
The type of artist you have to see in performance to experience her music at its very best, Celeste has an easy brilliance. At only 27 she is in possession of a rare talent; already an amazingly gifted singer and songwriter, she has the potential to become a legend.
Photos: Machine Operated
For further information and future events visit Celeste’s website here.
Watch the video for Hear My Voice (Live from The Union Chapel) here: