Ten years ago, Clare Teal told us last night, she performed at The Lawn in Lincoln, and this was her first return visit to the city. It’s fair to say that Lincoln has changed a lot for the better since then – just how much was brought home to me when I bumped into my next-door neighbour on the University of Lincoln campus. I was heading to the LPAC to hear jazz singer Clare Teal and her fabulous band, while he was getting down with the kids at the Engine Shed where chart topping rapper Wretch 32 was performing.
The fact is we now take it for granted that Lincoln routinely attracts this calibre of artist. It was a very different story a decade ago before the Drill Hall, LPAC and the Engine Shed appeared on the scene.
I can’t tell you what Wretch 32 was like but Clare Teal was on top of her game and backed by a stupendous virtuoso band whose musicianship left the audience open-mouthed at times.
Teal is well known to BBC Radio 2 listeners as a swing jazz performer and presenter of Big Band Special. Her peerless voice must sound fantastic with a big band but her current tour is on a much smaller scale and last night she performed an intimate set backed by percussion, keyboard and double bass. Whether she was stomping her way through jazz standards like Get Happy or gently cooing quieter covers like Annie Lennox’s Why, her excellent band hit precisely the right note.
As a Yorkshirewoman Teal’s stage persona is warm and friendly, and she spent a lot of time between songs thanking her audience, enthusing about Lincoln and gently ribbing her band members. And that audience was certainly appreciative as Teal moved from Fitzgerald to Gershwin via Moloko and Van Morrison.
But the best was kept until last: after a rousing round of applause Teal returned to the stage to give us her interpretation of Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. An unusual choice for a jazz singer, maybe, but with its piano arrangement by Grant Windsor and its crystal clear harmonies it was the stand-out song in a truly impressive set.
Clare Teal’s latest album Hey Ho – and the tea towel that goes with it! – is now on sale.