Amy Winehouse; Tempodrom, Berlin, Monday October 15
A shaky start but a triumphant ending for her first show since… oh, you know
Amy Winehouse’s first gig since it all went a bit wrong was due to start an hour and a half ago, but there’s still no sign of her. Understandably, given that Germany is a nation renowned for
its almost compulsive obsession with time-keeping and efficiency, the audience are getting increasingly restless. The occasional chants of “Come on!” have escalated into a full-on chorus of catcalls and, worryingly, NME just overheard a roadie admitting to an impatient punter that Amy’s band arrived at the venue without her.
Rumours begin circulating that she’s holed up in her hotel, distraught at her husband’s imminent jail sentence (not that she should, mind; as Pete Doherty spent the past few years proving, it’s almost impossible for anyone even remotely famous to get sent down for drug offences in the UK). We turned out tonight in the hope that Ms Winehouse would be back on track and ready to banish memories of the last few months of misadventure, but at present that’s not looking likely. Instead it feels like not-very-nice business as usual.
And then a crew member darts onstage and places a drink in front of the foremost microphone, the pre-show Motown compilation looping on the venue’s PA comes to an abrupt halt and finally, after what seems like forever, we’re plunged into blackness. The boos are replaced by a roar, and there she is: the beehive immaculate as ever, the voice… well, the voice is at least coherent. In stark contrast to the permanent grins sported by her backing singers though, Amy Winehouse looks inescapably ill at ease. Throughout a shaky ‘Just Friends’ and a darker than dark ‘Back To Black’, she gazes at the sound desk, at her band, at the floor – anywhere, in fact, but at the audience she’s supposed to be addressing. Given the sorry story that has played out daily in the UK’s gutter press over the past few months, Amy’s self-consciousness is understandable, if still uncomfortable to watch. What the Germans are making of it, however, is anyone’s guess.
It’s a relief then, that as the show progresses, you sense her becoming more and more determined to overcome the odds that she has stacked against herself. ‘You Know I’m No Good’ picks up the pace, and suddenly Amy’s sounding every bit the soul diva we all know she can be. More importantly, she actually looks like she’s starting to enjoy herself. Close your eyes as she launches into the ever-more prophetic ‘Rehab’ and it’s almost, almost possible to forget that the last few months ever happened.
By the time she returns to the stage for an encore of The Zutons’ ‘Valerie’, all is seemingly forgiven, and an audience that was ready to run her out of town barely an hour ago instead leaves the building feeling better about themselves than when they arrived. Amy Winehouse is clearly still some way from solving all her problems but, for tonight at least, she’s silenced the critics.