The Pheasantry, London, U.K., December 7, 2016
Reviewed by Thanasis Kalantzis for Cabaret Scenes
There is a thrill involved in the discovery of an amazing artist you didn’t know of, and that’s exactly how I felt a couple of days ago at The Pheasantry —- this soaked-in-history venue on King’s Road that has welcomed a galaxy of well-established singers and nurtured newcomers alike. Rachel Sutton rather belongs to the latter group, but her immaculate vocals and bursting-with-life stage presence tell me that soon she will be regarded as integral part of the former.
The songstress’ repertoire was eclectic and well-thought-out, featuring a balanced number of slow and fast-paced songs, covering a variety of genres. She built up the steam with a full-of-energy “Night and Day” (Cole Porter) and kept on going with “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” (Benton Overstreet/Billy Higgins)—a cha-cha-cha rendition—which was handled superbly by her pianist Roland Perrin.
She dedicated her fast and furious “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You” (Victor Young/Ned Washington) to a gentleman of 90, who danced to it when he heard her singing it 20 years ago, during her baby steps as a singer. Her pianist excelled on that one as well!
We had a chance to appreciate her smooth, velvety vocals in the song from the Great Depression, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (E.Y. “Yip” Harburg/Jay Gorney) during which her bassist, Michael Curtis Ruiz, filled the room with tons of beautiful dreamy notes.
Two original numbers followed, written by the artist herself: the funny and poignant “Pick Myself Up,” a song about showing that special someone what he is really missing; and “Kiss My Baby Goodbye,” dedicated to the older woman whose younger lover is about to leave her— a lovely rhumba full of passion and longing for everlasting love.
Her “Love for Sale” (Porter) was just bliss, and allowed Paul Robinson to give us yet another of his extraordinary solos on drums spread throughout the show. The “Sometimes I Wonder Why” (Mike Reid/Mack David) that followed, stabilized the ambiance in the room and allowed us to relax, while her “The Man I Love” (George and Ira Gershwin) was sexy and sassy and went down just right with my second glass of wine.
She stormed through her second set with a swing of “What Will Santa Claus Say?” (Louis Prima) and took my breath away with her “Witchita Lineman” (Jimmy Webb), during which not a breath was taken in the very busy room. Her “The Sky Is Crying” (Elmore James) proved that the lady can sing the blues and fully transmit those essential raw feelings. She dedicated her mellow “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (Kim Gannon/Walter Kent/Buck Ram) to all the people we miss during that time of the year, and danced her way through her cheeky “’Zat You Santa Claus” (Jack Fox).
It could have been that second glass of wine that made me want to leave my seat and start dancing during her amazing rendition of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” She closed the show with “The Christmas Song” and, for her encore, she sang “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!,” both perfectly capturing the spirit of the season.
Sutton is simply a charismatic performer. Supported by a superb voice, she pitched her notes with absolute precision while her vibrato, sweet and mellow, was meticulously calibrated. She not only sang beautifully, but danced through most of her songs with elegance and grace, defying the restrictions of the small stage. A thoroughly charming presence delivering a totally engaging experience—really, a must-see!