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EVEN the most accomplished singer can come underprepared and Angie Stone fell into that trap on a heat-filled night in front of what was an initially enthusiastic crowd.
This being the first of two one-off shows, Stone could be forgiven for displaying a few of the cobwebs normally blown away by days on the road travelling from gig to gig. But there was too much in this performance that was ad hoc, self-indulgent and unsatisfying.
All was well in the first half of a two-hour set as Stone, clad incongruously in full-length cotton coat as the audience sweated below her in halter tops and T-shirts, ran through her back catalogue with vigour.
But then a growing disinclination to fully engage with her material began to show itself with her show-stopper, Curtis Mayfield’s The Makings of You, which she largely left to her admittedly admirable backing singers.
Thereafter, as if she couldn’t quite be bothered to follow through with a second section to match the first, we got increasingly less of the full Stone and rather more of various diversionary tactics and distractions.
The flow began to falter when she called up, then brought onto stage, an ardent male fan who had posted a message for her on Facebook earlier in the day. While the subsequent 10 minutes of schmaltzy interaction and hugging might have in some ways been heartwarming, it registered low on the entertainment scale and did nothing for the continuity of the show. It more or less ground to a halt from that point onwards.
Worse was to come several minutes later with Stone’s impromptu summoning up of various musical collaborators, including Omar and Mica Paris. They had clearly not been forewarned that they might be required to do a turn and, as shouts went round the hall to locate any or all of them, Paris did not even appear to be in the building. It was only after several minutes of music-less hiatus that Omar finally made his way on to the stage.
What followed was more general embarrassment as the various guests hung around like spare parts and were reluctantly cajoled into improvising sections of No More Rain in This Cloud, a song to which they clearly knew only a few of the words. Given that this was one of the tunes most punters would have come hoping to hear in all its glory, the whole escapade was nothing more than a rude disregard for the audience.
As the end approached, the same could also be said of the final two numbers, 2 Bad Habits and Wish I Didn’t Miss You, neither of which were treated to the kind of committed rendition that artists should devote to classics that have made them famous, however bored they might be of delivering them.
With the last strains of the night fizzling out and Stone departing down the stairs, the minority shouts for an encore were ignored and the lights went up in double-quick time, leaving the fans to stream out into the relative cool of the night — not disappointed, as such, but certainly not on any kind of high.
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