Rietta Austin – Live in Staines

You might expect a cynical or even a jaded offering from an accomplished pub singer and hard-working funk-rock / soul performer like Rietta Austin. But what greeted the music lovers at Staines Riverside Club on May 26 was a show of exquisite charm and unprecedented freshness.  Rietta was as bold and as sweet as any flush faced  teen performer you may see on telly. Yet  more polished and professional than any them!  A most unlikely “prima donna” indeed.

Flying into an amazing tear-away set – opening with a sweeping version of ‘Knock On Wood’ the ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ singer gave us a glossy, yet youthful, show at the Riverside Club.  Full of totally vivacious energy and warm heartfelt joy , the curvy singer seemed to be literally bursting with a lusciously infectious spirit.

Rietta is credited with being the first artist to open the O2 Arena in London headlining their Community Event June 20, 2007. [ http://youtu.be/D26whvywMG0]
Coming from New Zealand, and continuing to have many professional and personal ties with her home continent of Australasia, her voice has been described as “Truly a voice that must be heard.” – Kirk Pengilly, INXS

After telling the Staines audience that she would play a few of her own works, sprinkled with some choice covers, she sang the deliciously melancholy Stevens/Ross number ‘Wildflower’  followed by a virtuous cover of fellow kiwi Sharon O’Neill’s 1983 hit  “Maxine”.

By the Jon Bovi number “Livin’ on a Prayer”  (produced with great gusto and fire), we had already witnessed  her magnificent and legendary four octave vocal range. And an exciting wardrobe malfunction during a lively session of tambourine, was narrowly avoided when Rietta, looking down,  realized that she was about to be undone.

This was during one of a pair of numbers when the singer allowed the impeccably funky band some time to ‘go their own way’. Another such piece was the eloquently arranged Hendrix number ‘Little Wing’ where Tom Walker (Guitar) played out a solo of such amazing quality that he managed to gain his own warm ovation.

But it was Rietta’s sweetly booming voice that the punters had come for. From so low that you thought the earth beneath you would crack open, to higher than the highest conceivable highs – like a tiny songbird – her range is undefinable and utterly magnificent.  Each thrilling song was gloriously realized by a vocalist who is renowned, quite rightfully,  for her sensuality and her highly charged stamina. Sensational.

© Neil_Mach May 2012





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