Julia Fordham

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Julia Fordham

Feinstein’s at the Nikko, San Francisco, CA, June 18, 2015

Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes

Julia-Fordham-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212Marking the 25th anniversary of her 1989 sophomore LP Porcelain, the much-revered singer-songwriter Julia Fordham performed the work in its entirety in a breathtaking display of her artistry. Backed by arranger/pianist/producer Grant Mitchell, Fordham needed no extra embellishments ‘cept for her bells, shakers, tambourine and acoustic guitar to cast a dreamlike musical landscape with her stunning lyrics. Highlights from Porcelain included “Island,” about womanly comaraderies, the relationship-beseeching “Did I Happen to Mention” and the exquisite title track.

Fordham, who started out in the British folk scene, was influenced by jazz and blues, which can be seen in two stylish compositions, “For You Only for You” and “China Blue.” The former is based on her take on Julie London’s rendition of “Cry Me a River” and has that “woman been wronged, but I remain strong” vibe. The latter is a jazzy, moody muse on the bravery exhibited at the Tiananmen Square uprising. The Brazilian bossa beat of “Genius,” pondering of the ravaging of the rain forest, is infused with a Portuguese verse and bouncy rhythms and moves and sways like a gentle Brazilian breeze.

Fordham’s intent is to strike a chord in people’s hearts, and she certainly has.

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Her songwriting skills put her in a league with the greats—the intense wordplay of Joni Mitchell, the political acumen of Nina Simone (without the overt bitterness), and the haunting relationship metaphors of Janis Ian.

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With a four-octave voice that soars with perfect control and phrasing, her fans listen in rapt attention to every nuance. Her stage presence is mesmerizing, the interplay with her pianist sublime. By the end of her two beautiful encores, “Falling Forward” and “Love Moves in Mysterious Ways,” I was hopelessly captivated by this most unique talent.

Steve Murray

Always interested in the arts, Steve was encouraged to begin producing and, in 1998, staged four, one-man vehicles starring San Francisco's most gifted performers. In 1999, he began the Viva Variety series, a live stage show with a threefold mission to highlight, support, and encourage gay and gay-friendly art in all the performance forms, to entertain and document the shows, and to contribute to the community by donating proceeds to local non-profits. The shows utilized the old variety show style popularized by his childhood idol Ed Sullivan. He’s produced over 150 successful shows, including parodies of Bette Davis’s gothic melodramedy Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Joan Crawford’s very awful Trog. He joined Cabaret Scenes 2007 and enjoys the writing and relationships he’s built with very talented performers.