The Empire Music Hall, Belfast
13th March 2019
At first glance, this looks a strange double bill; Vonda Shepard perhaps best-known for providing the best selling soundtrack to popular TV Series Ally McBeal and Sharon Corr of the crossover pop, trad-influenced Irish band.
The two begin the show together with a neat version of The Four Tops classic, ‘Walk Away Renee’ complete with violin solo. That set the template for a highly enjoyable evening.
The first set was by Sharon who performed a mixture of her own songs, some Corrs hits, and more classic covers. It’s quite brave to cover classics by Joni Mitchel, Fleetwood Mac and Richard Thompson, without attempting something a little different. To me they were very good “karaoke” versions, but the packed crowd obviously disagreed and sang along at some volume to each song.
Where the set really excelled was her fiddle playing, and a fine rendition of ‘Cooley’s Reel’ certainly had toes tapping. Sharon displayed a quiet confidence as she walked the stage, sharing little anecdotes with the crowd, and her voice came through as strong and rich, making one wonder why it’s not used more in The Corrs.
The same four-piece band supports both artists, and they have quite a CV between them, with guitarist James Roleston having played with Tina Turner for over 10 years and Bass player Jim Hanson having shared the stage with Johny Cash and Bruce Springsteen.
Vonda Shepard’s set was again a mix of her own material and covers. The two artists joined each other on several occasions and it was clear that both were really enjoying themselves.
Vonda promises a little “Ally Party” and indeed we are treated to songs from the much beloved titular television programme. ‘Searching My Soul’, ‘Baby , Don’t You Break My Heart Slow’, ‘Wildest Times of the World’, and a rocking ‘Tell Him’, ending with a high kick, has the audience cheering for more.
And more they get. Sharon is back on stage for a lively cover of ‘Weather With You’. The original Crowded House version was produced by Vonda’s husband, Mitchel Froom. They end appropriately with, ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ and both artists embrace before giving the band their kudos as well.
All in all, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable gig, but I just wonder if they had played more of their own material, could the show have been given more of its own identity?
Still, as I walked down Botanic Avenue, I could hear people behind me singing a particularly off-key version of The Corr’s ‘So Young’, and in front, another group attempting ‘Walk Away Renee’. What do I know?