Katie Melua’s set at the Pori Jazz festival belongs to the most memorable and touching performances.
Melua, 33, the Georgian-British singer and songwriter, musically leaning toward folk-pop and blues, walked on the stage wearing a long, pale dress that served as a contrast to her dark appearance from her brown locks to the eyes. Her fine band consisted of a guitarist, bass player, keyboardist and drummer with whisks.
She grabbed her guitar and so began “Nine Million Bicycles,” one of her hits from her debut album, Piece by Piece from 2005.
After a big applause, she continued with “Crawling Up a Hill,” reminding us of the rat race many are facing in their daily lives, a moment to reflect: work, sleep—and do it all over again. Or as in her words: “My life is just a slow train crawling up a hill.”
“Just Like Heaven” from her debut told the tale of lost love.
“Belfast” was about life. Living. “It’s about being able to fly. It’s about dying nine times,” Melua sang. And so wonderfully she did it.
Melua’s voice is like fine Australian Shiraz: sweet and smooth on a hot summer’s day, just like in Pori during her performance where bees buzzed and the crowd swayed in their summer dresses, hats and shorts.
“Fields of Gold”—Melua’s interpretation of Sting’s memorable song made the crowd fall silent. Mobile phones were left blinking. Unanswered.
Between songs, Melua shared pieces of her life. She talked humbly, quietly so that you really had to focus to hear what she was saying. I heard her whispering that each song she has chosen for her set represents a different phase of her life. While her voice was soft and quiet between the songs, it remained soft but became powerful while performing.
“Wonderful Life,” a Black cover from ’86, was tailor-made for Melua: No need to run and hide, it’s a wonderful, wonderful life . . . .
Toward the end, Melua took the listener to an imaginative journey with the “Plane Song” from her latest album In Winter (2016), to the planes and empty helicopters she visited as a child at an abandoned airport in Georgia, her home state and a republic of the former Soviet Union.
Then she moved to her most touching material with “Dreams on Fire” from her latest album as well. The song—and the album—feature a strong support from the Gori Women’s Choir from her homeland, and while the choir’s presence is striking on the album, Melua managed to fill the gaps with her fantastic voice.
She finished her set, which lasted about an hour, with “On The Road Again” from her debut proving that she could easily be singing these kinds of rock-blues tunes but instead she chooses to take the listener to a deeper journey, where Katie Melua knows she’s at her best.