It’s been ten years since Katherine Jenkins recorded her first album. With her striking looks and equally striking voice, the former school teacher from Neath was always going to be a class above her peers. And apart from the fame, there’s not much she hasn’t achieved. A decade later however, and newly-married, the 32-year-old must be wondering where she goes from here. Her career, if not going backwards, certainly seems to have plateaued. She’s still Britain’s favourite mezzo-soprano, but her pulling power appears to be on the wane.
The last time she was in town she played the Brighton Centre, now she was back at the Dome, a venue far more suited to her music and her audience, but worryingly, there were more than a few empty seats. Those that weren’t, were filled mainly with elderly couples, most of whom were at least twice her age.
Apart from the empty seats, a different backdrop and a different featured artist, pretty much everything about the show was almost the same. We were treated to no less than four dress changes (all were in shades of white and all of them could have been worn by a bride) and her engaging personality was evident once again when she answered questions from the audience.
Whilst the songs she sang weren’t all exactly the same ones she performed when she was last in town, the overall feeling was of deja vu all over again. And with the National Symphony Orchestra and conductor Anthony Inglis dressed in white tie and tails, you could have been thinking you had been transported back in time. It all highlighted a lack of ambition on Katherine’s part, with little or no desire to try anything new. Indeed, the fact she’s just re-signed to her original label, is further evidence of an artist looking to the past, rather than the future.
Musically, she may be stuck in a time warp, but that doesn’t mean her voice is any less impressive today than it was ten years ago. Indeed, there are moments when you simply cannot believe someone of her size is able to produce such a huge sound. But those high notes are nurtured carefully across two rather short sections. Partly perhaps to not strain her voice, and partly to allow for those costume changes, there is a lot of time when Katherine is not onstage.
At least a third of the show is either the orchestra on their own, or her special guest, fellow Welshman, John Owen-Jones, a man with a big voice and an equally big personality. There were moments when he threatened to steal the show, but in the end, it was their stirring duet of Barcelona that was the most impressive rendition of the evening. He’s no Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé’s shoes are big ones to fill, but together they gave it their all and it deserved getting the biggest applause of the night.
But this was a performance that needed much more ambition, not just in the ad-hoc song choice (which included ‘Anthem’ from Chess, a Sanctus version of Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’ and Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’) but particularly in the production. It cried out for some interesting staging, but once again Katherine was standing in front of the orchestra. That just made for a messy look, when all it would have taken was for a couple of raised areas where Katherine could have performed. A video screen showing close-up imagery would have helped too, especially given the age of the audience and the price of the tickets, but apart from an illuminated sign to one side of the stage saying ‘HOME’ and a nicely lit swag backdrop, there was nothing.
This lack of desire to embrace change is curious. She seems content to stick with what she’s always done and as a result she’s not winning any new fans. When even her ‘contemporary’ songs are dated, it’s hard to see where she’s going to get a new audience from. She may be a big rugby fan, but ‘World In Motion’ is hardly what you could call modern. The world doesn’t stand still and if she’s to avoid playing to ever-smaller numbers in the future, a rethink of her live show is something she’d do well to address.
Katherine Jenkins’ latest album ‘Home Sweet Home’ is out now
Photos by Images Out Of The Ordinary