TANITA TIKARAM – from good tradition to great legend

It is rare to see an artist perform who exceeds all expectations and preconceptions, but that is exactly what I had the pleasure of witnessing on Saturday night at Cadogan Hall.

At 19, TANITA TIKARAM released internationally acclaimed album “Ancient Heart” which sold over 4 million copies and was one of those albums that defined part of my youth. I should add that I never actually owned a copy, but the singles were widely played and for many friends the album was a favourite – her distinctive voice and style (alongside her contemporaries Sinéad O’Connor, Tracey Chapman and Michelle Shocked) providing the ideal antidote at that time to the multiple trite sicknesses inflicted upon us by that triple-headed demon known as Stock Aitken and Waterman.

I think all really good songs have a story attached to them and Tanita Tikaram’s are full of small glimpses and insights into her world. Tonight, it is easy to see why she was so successful at such a young age, her songs being bittersweet, with a subtle humour and never schmaltzy.

She truly does have an amazing voice, and now I can’t really begin to figure out why she never matched the success of her debut album. It is times like this that you realise just how much music can transport you. Tonight’s stage sound and venue being so well matched that at times her voice seemed to hang in the air and leave the audience in a slight dazed silence, with even the venue staff applauding at songs’ end. It might seem I’m lauding praises a bit too much, but it is difficult not to – she really was that good.

The 18-song set lasted roughly an hour and twenty minutes, the bulk of the performance being tracks from her 1988 debut album and 2012’s “Can’t Go Back” – which, writing this now, I realise might be a statement about where she is, within the context of her career.

She aptly opened with her debut single “Good Tradition,” which was well received as you would expect. Other highlights of the set were “World Outside My Window,” “Play Me Again,” “Science,” “Rock N’Roll,” “Twist in My Sobriety” and “Can’t Go Back.”

For the 3-song encore, we got two covers “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Love is in the Air,” and the closing number “Little Sister Leaving Town” (taken from her 1990 album “The Sweet Keeper”) which was just incredible and my favourite song of the night – I’ve heard other artists perform this song before and had never realised until now that she wrote it.

Not much more I can say, other than you should go see her play and buy the recent album. You will not regret it.

P.S. To Mr Michael Eavis and all at The Glastonbury Festival: “You could do a lot worse than put Tanita Tikaram onto the bill, for Sunday’s Legends slot.”