I didn't know where to begin with this review, because her performance defies the measure of words. Amazing, unbelievable are the words I've used when describing it to my friends, but they are mere words and she was so much more than they can convey. The best live performance I've seen in my lifetime and that still doesn't quite cover how good Nina Simone was. The audience was held spellbound from the moment she appeared and everyone stood to catch a glimpse of the Queen of Blues. She appeared resplendent in a gold dress escorted onstage by two minders, maybe not the most auspicious of entrances, but at 66 years of age, she is unfortunately crippled with arthritis. Not that that took from her performance, if anything it showed what a formidable woman she really is. At one stage she even removed her shoes and danced to the beat of the bongo drums.
From the moment she opened her mouth and Christy Moore's 'Black is the Colour' came out, it was obvious that this woman knew exactly how to please the crowd. To Ireland she said: "You've been fighting for 800 years, keep fighting!" Even Brendan Behan was mentioned in her long list of dedications.
Her definite political ideas were evident from the start as she saluted the crowd with a clenched fist symbolising solidarity and held an African "Rainmaker" aloft. With dedications to Martin Luther King on 'Why (The King of Love is dead)' and a song devoted to the black maids working in hotels in America, the concert had potential to veer towards the extreme, but thanks to brilliant musical directing and talented musicians this never happened. There was a mixture of the sombre and the light-hearted with 'I love you Porgy' from "Porgy and Bess", 'See-Line Woman' and 'Mississippi Goddam' with the crowd actively joining in, through to the slow and sexy "I want a little sugar in my bowl".
Her daughter, tall in a sleek black dress, sang a duet with Nina and then a solo song. She captured the audience, but never overshadowed Nina's deep velvety tones.
What remains foremost in my mind weeks after the concert is the sheer power of her presence. The crowd remained "pin-drop" silent for her songs and then broke into loud cheers and applause at the end of each one. There was a friendly banter between the audience and she replied to "We love you Nina" with "I love you too". Following numerous standing ovations she finished up with her signature song 'My Baby just cares for me' and left the crowd applauding and cheering as she exited the stage.
In an age of techno music and synthetic pop tunes it was nice to hear the response to sheer talent. Take everything away and she still has one of the most influential and memorable voices of all time.
by Celine O'Malley.