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I thought the publicity would highlight that Helen is not merely part of the 60s nostalgia concert, but also a fine jazz, blues and gospel singer.
Although Helen has been performing as a jazz singer for nearly 20 years there are still too many people who are not aware of her varied talents.
Helen followed the first set of an indifferent house band with a rip-roaring version of “ It don’t mean a thing” and after explaining that in 1983 the listening public became aware for the first time about her talent for jazz with the release of the album “Straighten up and fly right” demonstrated what the fuss was about with a lively version of the title track.
Then came the hits medley with the audience enthusiastically joining in with Helen in singing “Walkin Back….”.
By this time it was clear that there was a problem with a small but vocal minority of the audience who insisted on talking very loudly over Helen’s anecdotes.
A firm response was needed to deal with this problem and after humour proved ineffective Helen told them to shut up, which seemed to do the trick!
There is no point in trying to be polite with people who are clearly drunk out of their skulls, and are spoiling the enjoyment of the majority!
“Choo Choo Boogie” was then sung at the usual frenetic pace and Helen then demonstrated magnificently her penchant for soulful blues with a tremendous version of the Fats Waller classic “Buzz Me”.
Helen’s beautiful rendition of the ballads “I’ve got it bad” and “When a woman loves a man” clearly grabbed the attention of the audience and the range of her vocal talents was gaining the admiration of the (relatively) sober majority.
The response to the whimsical “Your feet’s too big” was very warm and with “Flying Home” closing the first set the majority of the audience seemed to understand that the Shapiro magic is really something very special.
Their appreciation of the individual and collective talents of the band was also clearly demonstrated.
When Helen and her Band returned for the second set at midnight most of the unappreciative members of the audience had gone and it was clear that Helen now had the undivided attention and appreciation of those who remained.
I was sitting with three friends and we moved to a table at the front with the aim of leading the tumultuous applause that Helen so clearly deserved.
She got off to an excellent start with “Don’t Get Around Much Any More” and a sultry version of “Midnight at the Oasis”.
A powerful version of “Undecided” was received warmly.
The Mercer Medley followed and what a fantastic achievement this is.
She moved effortlessly from song to song varying the tempo and mood with such style and talent.
I recalled Benny Green saying she “is the best singer in Europe”-I think he may well be right because I really don’t know any other singer who could match this performance.
It was simply brilliant and the audience rightly went wild.
The band then gave Helen a well deserved break while they played “Green Dolphin Street”.
She clearly had mustered all the strength she could command because the final two performances of “Nobody Does It Like Me” and the encore of “I Go to the Rock” were dynamite.
The evening ended with a richly deserved standing ovation and I’m sure many of the audience who had started out as vaguely curious were now converts to the Shapiro cause.
The fact is that after almost 40 years of performing she is still getting better and better.
Funny, but it’s true!
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