|Scotsman.com||ANYONE who had read about Bare, Annie Lennox's first album of her own
material since 1992, out this week, probably brought a box of tissues
with them to see her first solo show in London.
Three years ago she split from her husband of 12 years, film-maker
Uri Fruchtmann, and as the title and scary album sleeve imply, in the
new songs she exposes the emotions she felt in unflinching detail.
It's an album about loneliness, heartbreak, depression and, here and
there, finding the glimmer of hope in pain. Fans had good reason to
expect to sniffle their way through the performance.
Instead, they were up on their feet and dancing within minutes,
witnessing a joyous, impassioned performance that didn't skimp on the
more raucous elements of her extensive back catalogue.
Strutting on stage, to Money Can't Buy It, she looked as if she
didn't want to be recognised in glasses, beret and heavy leather
jacket, but her voice was unmistakable, swooping over Legend In My
Living Room and A Thousand Beautiful Things.
A wild encore that included Sweet Dreams, with its concluding
line "Hold your head up, keep your head up", indicated that, while
she may have been down when she wrote her album, the future's bright
for Annie Lennox.
|Daily Telegraph||Lynsey Hanley reviews Annie Lennox at Sadler's Wells
People tend either to quite like Annie Lennox - and only quite, thanks to the uninspiring blandness of her post-Eurythmics solo work - or to be utterly crazy about her, like the woman in the row behind me, who insisted on dancing like a caffeinated fitness instructor even during the ballads.
Sanitised set: Annie Lennox
Lennox had been on tour for over two months when she swept into Sadler's Wells for the penultimate show of her current trip to promote Bare, her first new album in eight years. You'd never have known. She and her band looked as fresh as daisies, with the self-acknowledged diva cutting a typically androgynous dash in black trousers and tunic. It was hard to remember a time, however, when she'd looked so painfully thin.
The songs from her new album sounded sterile in their execution, airbrushed of any raw musical power and rendered muzaky in their middle-of-the-road sleekness. As if to highlight this, her backing singers - veteran performers Carol Kenyon, Beverly Skeete and Claudia Fontaine - looked bored out of their minds during Pavement Cracks, recovering only in the deceptively jaunty Walking on Broken Glass.
I say deceptively because if Lennox's lyrics, particularly those written as a solo artist rather than one half of the Eurythmics, have a common theme, it seems to be a jarring sense of bitterness. This tone of repressed rancour matched her appearance, but, while it gave the songs at least something idiosyncratic to hang themselves on, it didn't give a great impression of the woman herself.
Bitter Pill, another uptempo rocker from the album, was so lyrically gloomy it seemed nothing short of surreal to witness the overjoyed aerobics of her superfan, now star-jumping, in the aisle. Here Lennox was describing her utmost disappointment with life, art, men - even women, for all we know - with an emphasis verging on the misanthropic.
Yet no matter how prickly she became, it didn't puncture the feeling that you were listening to the musical equivalent of a Swiss watch - clinically reliable and devoid of surprises.
All except a soulful Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves and the relatively abandoned I Need A Man, both from her pre-solo, pre-marriage-and-divorce career, came and went with as little incident as a brief crackle on the airwaves. At times it felt no better, and no worse, than listening to the radio.