Amy Winehouse: Shockwaves NME Awards Show,Astoria, London, Monday, February 19

Smoky jazz-pop filthiness and a rather unusual cover version

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Tonight Amy Winehouse does something very mean indeed. She closes her set with an unfamiliar tune, a joyous afrobeat stomper that’s all handclaps and harmonizing. NME’s head bops, we clap and then, as the chorus kicks in, it slowly dawns on us, like the morning-after recognition of the focus of your sex dreams, what we’re shouting: “VALERIE! VALERIE!”

Yep, for one night only, Amy Winehouse has made us sing along to The Zutons. And we continue singing along despite an innate hatred for insipid pub rock with over-enthusiastic saxophonists. But in Amy’s care, this song – the very reason you can sometimes find NME curled up into the foetal position under our desks, drooling on to the floor screaming “Mummy” – sounds beautiful.

Because Amy, despite looking like a mashed hybrid of Cleopatra and Faris Rotter and inventing words like ‘fuckery’, is irresistible. And of course, she has that voice, a voice as pretty as a lily in the snow, even when she’s singing about adulterous blowjobs in bathrooms (‘I’m No Good’). As her eight-piece band run through the Phil Spector-ized Greek tragedy of ‘Back To Black’ and the triumphant Motown optimism of ‘Tears Dry’, it feels like we’re drinking ourselves stupid in a smoky jazz bar, listening to an alternative history of music by a knowledgeable stoner, and channel-surfing through episodes of Sex And The City – all at the same time. And if there’s a whiff of soulless wine bars that hangs over the older material from first album ‘Frank’ (‘Cherry’, ‘Love Is Blind’), it just goes to show what a quantum leap the likes of ‘I’m No Good’ and ‘Rehab’ (still great despite being dragged through the shit by Radio 2 and Joss Stone) are. And for that, we’ll let her off making us look like twats.

Priya Elan

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