Home > Reviews > Live Reviews > 11/03/2011 | Equals Live – Royal Festival Hall, London

11/03/2011 | Equals Live – Royal Festival Hall, London

Lisa Ward


As eight photographers line the stage ready to shoot tonight’s gig, the reason it’s required becomes strikingly obviously. As one lone female joins the ranks, the point is driven home. Tonight I may be here to talk about the music, but without at least a passing mention of the ‘F’ word (or feminism as some prefer) it becomes somewhat irrelevant. These artists and the majority of the audience, judging by the continual whooping at any mention of women succeeding in their fight, are here to highlight a point – to continue the quest for equality whilst simultaneous celebrating what has already been achieved.

As Kate Nash walks on stage, cat hat to boot, I’m enamoured to see a female drummer join her band. Still as she starts with Do Wah Do, a song which ends with the line ‘well I think she’s a bitch’, part of me wonders if Kate has missed the point. Either that or she’s trying to be subtly ironic. Whilst her anti-homophobic rant I’ve Got A Secret redeems her, the audience reaction to Kiss That Grrrl as they clap too early, assuming a break in the song is the end, seems to sum up her set. Kate looks crushed and the audience (like me at times) simply don’t seem to get it. Whilst Birds and Foundations get a predictably wild applause, her solo version of I Hate Seagulls and Later On though brilliantly performed, do not seem to inspire the crowd the way she or I might have hoped.

VV Brown is quiet by comparison to the others, making no comment on the theme of the evening. Travelling Like Light opens with beautiful string harmonies, whilst rockabilly Bottles packs in the variation. I Love You is breathtaking and her cover of Coldplay’s Vida La Vida is a gutsy rendition that highlights the talent of her band. Nevertheless whilst the audience might be most blown away by Shark In The Water for me it’s Everybody that hits the mark. Though not distinctly about feminism the lyrics seem fitting, counteracting her quietness and highlighting a point.

As predicted, Annie Lennox is anything but quiet. Head of the Equals campaign, she marches on stage to a single piano and sits head on to the crowd. As she plays the opening bars of No More I Love Yous it becomes clear who most of the crowd have come to see. There Must Be An Angel leads into Here Comes The Rain Again and those who came for a fix of Eurhythmics songs were not disappointed. Still it’s Annie’s breathtaking vocals on Little Bird and her humour as she realises she’s started Love Is A Stranger in the wrong key that really win the crowd over. All it takes is a gut wrenching rendition of Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves with A Capella vocals and the audience are happy enough to dance in the aisles.

With Lennox unorthodoxly not taking the headline slot, Paloma is set a hard act to follow. Relative new kid on the block, she sets about highlighting her worth. The acclaim that has followed Paloma’s debut is justified within just a few notes of Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? and despite technical issues with her microphone she astounds both me and the rest of the audience. She rattles through a few new songs, including a low key piano led number and the up tempo homage to embracing the female form in which she questions ‘can you love me right, me and my cellulite?’ and though humorous, it subtly hammers home a point. With a cover of Etta James’ At Last, and debut album classics New York and Upside Down she closes the show with a bang.

As the opening speaker suggests, the concert is about reclaiming feminism, affirming that it simply means giving a damn about other women. Whilst some may have been dismayed that Annie’s slot was short, I for one was thrilled to see that equality was in action on stage, no women being favoured in terms of time over another. For some there will be disgust that feminism was packed up into a commodity and sold off in concert variety (even I was left pondering if the cost of tickets simply enacted a different kind of inequality), but with a series of short clips and hard hitting facts if the message was conveyed to even ten of those in attendance then it had to be worth it.