Quite what a multi-millionaire, classically trained soprano is doing stood on the stage of a working men’s club in west Leeds belting out mid-tempo rock songs is really anybody’s guess. But that is precisely what Charlotte Church is doing tonight. Mind you, this strange musical trajectory may not come as a complete surprise when it is placed in the wider context of her reported life and career. The early fame and an ensuing classical career yielding millions of record sales; the sideways shift into popular song and her plummeting commercial appeal; and the consistently spectacular accompaniment of a rather florid personal life acted out through the media and which culminated in her testimony before the Levinson enquiry and a massive pay-out for fabricated stories in the press, including the one about a drunken marriage proposal to her current partner and bandleader whilst singing in a karaoke bar. Suddenly this attempt at musical and personal re-invention starts to make much more sense.
But does this metamorphosis work? Well, ahead of the release of the album from which this evening’s ten or so songs are presumably taken and based upon a performance lasting little over three-quarters of an hour it is perhaps too early to say, but a less than half full Brudenell function room would suggest that the answer to the question may well be no. The arias, chamber music, traditional songs and despite repeated requests for “Jerusalem”, the religious offerings of yore have all given way to a more contemporary though albeit rather formulaic rock countenance. The four a half octave larynx, liberally lubricated throughout the set by spoonfuls of honey remains an instrument of supremely impressive power, none more so than on “Breach Of The Peace”, but to try and pitch it somewhere between Florence Welch and Kate Bush on some occasionally fairly ordinary material seems an absurd waste of its scope. Charlotte Church may well argue that she needs a fresh challenge but for that to be a worthwhile one for both her and her audience she will require in the first instance some much bigger and better songs.