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Alexanders, Chester, 5 October 2006

The opening night of Eleanor McEvoy's UK tour was marked by the intimate atmosphere of the venue, and the warm interaction of audience and performer.

Low-key is how Eleanor seems to prefer things these days, the following day she was driving up to the Isle of Arran where to all accounts she would be playing to one man and his sheep.

In the past few years she has delivered a couple of memorable and atmospheric albums, 'Yola' and 'Early Hours'. Simple in their cosy domesticity, but one worried slightly that she was becoming a sort of Earth Mother figure.

The latest, 'Out There', is more immediately accessible, perhaps a bit more edgy, and has definitely put a new spring in her step.

She performed several of her new songs in the first half: 'Non Smoking Single Female' reflecting a time when Eleanor became absorbed in personal ads and internet dating (on behalf of her friends, of course), 'Quote I Love You Unquote' (co-written with Dave Rotheray from Beautiful South) , 'Fields Of Dublin 4', reflecting hedonistic consumerism and a mesmerising 'Wrong So Wrong'.

She also slipped in 'Only A Woman's Heart' (often left until an encore) which I think is a measure of her confidence in the new material.

One can't help thinking these tunes would be good with a band but that's not to detract from Eleanor's stripped-down-to-basics approach and her undoubted versatility.

In the second half, the new album was kept in focus with 'Little Look', 'Suffer So Well' and 'The Way You Wear Your Troubles' and she paid tribute to Joni Mitchell with a spirited version of 'Carey'. 'Territory of Poets' harked back to her glory years and the very fine 'Snapshots' album from 1999.

It seemed that Eleanor gained in confidence and happily included some audience suggestions, modestly claiming that she might be a bit rusty. She then went on to deliver impromptu versions of 'Did I Hurt You', 'Ave Maria' and - for an encore - 'Biochemistry'.

The latter song and a rousing 'Apologise' sealed a truly excellent evening, which reinforced the view that here is a performer whose best is yet to come.

Review by David Randall

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