Duffy Brixton Academy, December 8
Pictures by Matt Grayson
IT'S BEEN a big year for British female singer/songwriters, with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Adele and Kate Nash plastered over both the charts and the gossip mags, but one lady seems to have come out on top.
More reliable than Winehouse, more charismatic than Adele and more family friendly than Nash, Duffy's entrance into the world of pop may have been more subtle than the rest but judging by tonight's performance, she's the one with staying power.
The first of two sell-out shows at Brixton Academy, she's rounding off her debut year in style. The woman on stage tonight has come a long way from the shy little Aimee we first met earlier this year - the bare feet are gone, replaced with killer heels, and the sultry new attire has effected more than just her outfit.
She struts on stage, lapping up the deafening screams. Part panto' audience, part hen party, her fans range from families with little girls to middle aged couples and groups of teenagers.
With just one album under her belt, such a big show must be daunting, especially because she's forced to throw in a few new songs to fill time. But her show brings the album to life, with a rabble of a backing band, a four piece string orchestra, twin backing singers and a ballet/break dancing duo accompanying her.
As the clunking opening bars of the album's title track echo through the room, she gets warmed up, breaking into a pout and wiggle routine that sets her up for the rest of the show. A relentless flirt, she's got the whole room wrapped around her little finger after the first couple of minutes.
She's said in the past that her trademark husky voice is put on, and at times it sounds that way. A bit too nasal and gravelly, she sounds best tackling the less ambitious songs, like Serious.
Live she injects a genuine emotion into the songs, which might suggest her producer, former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, had less to do with the writing than critics have suggested. "It's weird, writing your life story at 24," she says, before launching in to her "most personal song - the one that means the most to me" Warwick Avenue. No hip-wiggling, no microphone swinging, just a gentle sway as she stares into the audience. It feels intimate and confessional, despite sharing the moment with several thousand others.
Other highlights include Stepping Stone - which could have been sung by any of the soul greats, Rain On Your Parade and, of course, Mercy, which she sings from a raised platform, flanked by her mini me backing singers doing a tongue-in-cheek 60s dance.
Her new songs are along the upbeat retro-pop vein of Mercy, and if they're a sign of things to come should make for a great second album.
Her final encore, Distant Dreamer, is a Disney-esque ballad. With a backdrop of twinkling lights, it has her younger fans, dressed in Tammy Girl 60s dresses and mini beehives, staring, open mouthed.
Not many people could pull off such an entertaining show with just one singer and one album, and when she learns to tame her sometimes unruly voice, she could be really great.