Amy Winehouse – New Pop Festival (2004)

Barring what anyone may have to say about Amy Winehouse’s tragic life, her presence on stage was something to behold. She was a dynamic vocalist, with a clear sound that was plucked from the very era that influenced her to create some stunning modern jazz. Indeed, her debut album Frank was more than just an introduction, it was a warning to any other vocalist that they’d have to step up their game.

Her performance at Germany’s New Pop Festival in 2004 was a spectacular example of how to use the voice and the band to captivate. Everything else can just fall to the wayside. In particular, the opening performance of “Know You Now” was a piece of pure magic. Her vocals are of a class beyond anything being produced at the time, and surely right now. She was a talent of the old school, as cliché as that may sound. But certainly her vocal improvisation is of a standard that many take for granted. We weren’t blessed to be around when giants such as Ella Fitzgerald and Sara Vaughan were in their prime. Though there have been astounding singers before and since, the closest to even touching the grandness of these ladies was Winehouse herself. Indeed, she studied their sounds, honing in on their precision and understanding of music and taking it into herself.

With this performance at Baden Baden, Amy Winehouse cemented herself as a vocal force of nature. She may have had a childish animation about her while on stage, but it was her voice that seemed to be doing all the dancing for her, indeed the sound so very particular it had to find some way to move through her. This is by far one of her best performances, which in and of itself does speak to a certain sadness as this was also one of her first. It was only fitting that my 100th post be about one of my all-time favourite singers.

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