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The Sundowners’ hippy-chick chic twosome girl singers in swirling chiffon and glittering gowns can’t fail to impress – whilst a hippo in a wet-suit tight band of scorching musicians nailed-down the beat complimenting the harmony-rich, retro Pop-Rock celebratory songwriting. ‘Don’t Look Back’ was an engaging blend of UFOs’ ‘Doctor, Doctor’ with an ABBAesque flourish. Utterly forgivable retro West Coast Jefferson Airplane/Quicksilver Messenger indulgences were embellished by Motown choruses and rhinestone ripples of C&W romanticism. ‘Roll The Dice’, with its stadium assured guitar-chopping grunt, found space enough for some Del Shannon ‘Runaway’ refrains. If you ever catch your mom keening over what ever happened after Fleetwood Mac, get her to dab on some slap and take her to a Sundowners’ gig. Mid-west USA ought to go mamma’s apple-pie gobble ‘em up mental all over this band.

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Weird name maybe, cryptic charisma – certainly. Nevertheless, tonight the World trembled on its axis, celestial constellations’ shapes became realigned whilst angels lullabied anxieties away with gentle whispers of reassurance in the souls of the disenchanted. To a dreamy piano intro Ms. Harvieu, in austere Amish-like gown and wide brim black hat, entered to a vigorous reception from a sizable audience aged from sixteen to easily, sixty-six. Somehow, word seems to be getting about. Her’s is a formidable talent and a voice to cry for. Like some preacher’s daughter who has gargled potent draughts of bewitching summer-wine her voice has magnificent authority, tonality and textured maturity that surely has to be illegally acquired by one so young. The lady sings the grooves. Picture yourself in some Gauloises smoke-soaked Parisian cellar-bar. On stage, before your very eyes, ghosts of Sally Bowles and Edith Piaf echo about your psyche like seductive sirens. Nu-Jazz swirls, diva operatic vibrato curls of cocktail intoxicating romanticism engulf you.

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Scorching Torch songs led visceral vulnerabilities to be beguiled. With ‘Love Is A Memory’, and its minor key piano intro, her deliriously seductive vocal registers reminded us of Freddie Mercury and Roy Orbison. Indeed, she does a stripped down near acapella cover of ‘Crying’. Imagine Eno’s ‘Apollo Ascending’ as she’s clutching the piano – reaching for that sublime, rising falsetto denouement. There was opportunity for a dirty slide-guitar Delta-blues with the jilted lover’s spell-weaving revenge lamenting, ‘…she won’t love you like I do’. And, as for the feral Hammond organ broody ‘For You’ and its prowling alley-cat hip beat – don’t look any further for the next James Bond title song. Encore time – but back stage she’s already taken her wig off (allegedly!) and doesn’t a girl just have to look her best? Andy, the soundsman, gets there pronto. ‘Best get the fuck back out there, Miss, they love you!’ In hair-bun and black feather boa she flirts back on to the unashamedly teasing disco-beat ‘Found Love’. All this mind, in tandem with a band of soul-numbingly brilliant musicians. This young lady, carefully guided, needs must go stratospheric. Let’s not tempt Fate with comparisons just yet – just open up your arms and embrace her skin-tingling splendour.

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Thanks to Island Records (and Lisa Harper)

Gig Review by John Kennedy (02! £4.20 a pint?)
Gig Photos by Ian Dunn

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