Lucy Kaplansky

Live Review | Memorial Hall, Sheffield | Review by Allan Wilkinson

It takes a consummate professional to respond positively to requests from the audience; not to whinge and refuse on the grounds that the singer can’t remember the song, but to just play it, almost as if it had been planned that way.  This happened not once, but several times tonight.  That same professionalism can be found in a performer who deals with a bad throat, again, not by moaning and cancelling the show, but by re-assessing each song, dropping the key down a notch or two and coming up with an alternative melody whilst all the while, sucking on cough drops.  Only those intimately familiar with Lucy Kaplansky’s repertoire would have noticed a difference tonight at the Memorial Hall in Sheffield, but even so, not a single dodgy moment to be heard anywhere.  On the contrary, Lucy’s last performance in the country before returning home was in a class of its own and for the first time in a long while, by the end of the show, Lucy made me want to turn back the clock by an hour or so to listen to it all over again.  Opening with a sensitive reading of Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe”, “one of the greatest songs ever written” we were informed, Lucy went on to alternate pretty much between her own self-penned material and songs she has picked up along the way.  Originally from Chicago, now resident in New York, this troubadour, songsmith, psychologist and mother appears to have it all.  Choosing material from the last five of her six solo albums, Lucy presented an evening of finely crafted songs, interspersed with intelligent and engaging conversation.  Lucy speaks of motherhood with a pure delight. Missing her five-year-old daughter, but excited to be seeing her on her return to the States tomorrow, Lucy radiated warmth as an old friend would, and to some, that’s exactly what she is.  The Memorial Hall in Sheffield provided a suitably intimate setting for some of Lucy’s better known songs such as “Ten Year Night”, “Amelia” and “Five in the Morning”, which earned some praiseworthy comments from the stage; “this is one of the best venues I get to play anywhere”, Lucy pointed out, going on to admit that she doesn’t say this every night. Citing her influences as firstly The Beatles, then Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris and finally Steve Earle, Lucy performed a handful of covers during the course of her two sets including Earle’s “Somewhere Out There”, Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding”, Richard Thompson’s “A Heart Needs a Home” and the Johnny Cash classic “Ring of Fire”.  The most poignant tribute tonight though came when Lucy took to the piano to perform “Let it be”; “I’m so moved by this song, I can’t stop playing it, and it’s the first time I’ve gotten to play it in a place where The Beatles actually played, you know that right?”  Although Lucy produces faithful adaptations of familiar songs written by arguably the best writers in the business, it’s with her own songs that our attention is held.  “Brooklyn Train” brings to this Sheffield audience a tangible essence of New York, you can almost smell the pretzels.  A couple of new songs were introduced tonight, “Mother’s Day”, a song Lucy reckons “isn’t quite done” but invites the audience to be the judge, and then two back to back, “Sleep Well” and “When You Love Someone”.  Finishing the set with the requested “For Once in Your Life”, a tribute to her 85-year-old mom, Lucy was pleased to have got through the night with her voice still intact.  Returning to the stage to rapturous applause, Lucy Kaplansky left us with a seasonal rendition of “White Christmas”, reminding us of what a beautiful song it actually is, before a final encore of “This is Home”.