Live music is one of my passions, and I’m always excited when I get the opportunity to see a new artist perform – even more so when it’s at a venue I haven’t visited before.
Both were the case tonight, when I went to see Harriet perform at PizzaExpress Live, in Maidstone. If you aren’t familiar with the PEL franchise, I strongly encourage you to check it out – there are five of these venues now and they host some amazing acts. Most recently, I saw Lorna Luft perform at The Pheasantry – and she was wonderful. Tickets are always reasonably priced, too.
Back to tonight, and the first thing I should say about Harriet is that she has the most glorious voice. Sounding uncannily like Karen Carpenter, she has a versatile range which suits both ballads and more up tempo numbers. The second thing I will say is that Harriet’s self-titled, debut album is GREAT. She performed a selection of tracks from it, as well as some covers: a good blend of old and new.
Thirdly – and possibly most importantly – Harriet has a winning personality and knows how to charm an audience, chatting away to us as though we were old friends before launching into ‘What’s Mine is Yours’, followed by ‘Afterglow’, a gorgeously mellow song that suits her voice perfectly and “is where everything started for me; this is where I found my style, and my sound.”
Two more strong songs from the album followed: ‘Never Not Remember’ (“about falling in love with the wrong guy”) and ‘Dream (“I put this song out a while ago and people seemed to really like it”). And then, a change of pace: “I LOVE The Backstreet Boys”, Harriet exclaimed, before thrilling us with a heartfelt version of ‘As Long As You Love Me’.
Thanking Radio 2 (where the likes of Paul O’Grady and Graham Norton champion her) for its “amazing support”, Harriet then treated us to ‘Fall In Love Again’ (“about falling in love with the same person 100 million times a day – so irritating for everyone else!”) and – my favourite song of hers – ‘First And Last’. Luscious.
Introducing us to her band (“How I love them”), Harriet confided that she spent much of her childhood listening to ’60s and ’70s music, thanks to her dad’s influence – before launching into a cracking version of ‘Take It Easy’. Then, “Who likes The Beatles?” she cried, to cheers from the audience – and ‘Something’ followed. Much to my surprise, she sang it so beautifully that it gave me goosebumps – and I’ve never been much of a Beatles fan (I know, I know; it’s against the law to admit to that).
More compelling numbers from the album came next: ‘Unlove You’ (“I wrote this on my way to a meeting; people looked at me as though I was mad, singing into a tape recorder”) ‘Let You Go’ (“this one always makes me teary”) and ‘Broken For You’ (“This song’s about surrendering to love. Please sing along!”).
“I do talk a lot”, Harriet admitted, before sharing with us the inspiration behind ‘Permission to Kiss’. “I really liked this guy – but three dates in he hadn’t so much as tried to kiss me. Isn’t that rubbish? Has that ever happened to you?”. There was a happy ending to this story, though – four years later, they are still together (and she got a good song out of it).
What a blissful evening this was, being entertained by a woman who is obviously hugely passionate about music, and about performing. “Thank you all so much for coming, and for joining me on this wonderful journey”, Harriet told us, sliding neatly into ‘Fly’ – an upbeat and slightly spiky song which made for a brilliant ending.
The highest praise I can give Harriet is that the moment I got home, I ordered her album – I will be playing it non-stop when it arrives.