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Nana Mouskouri – Farewell Tour - Concert Hall, QPAC

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by John Andrew (subscribe)
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Before Nana Mouskouri i came on stage, we saw a short video where we were reminded of her career from the late fifties until now.

This is the performer who fills the Albert Hall, who hosted the Nana Mouskouri Show for over a decade, who was a friend of Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, Michel Legrand, Leonard Cohen, Charles Aznavour, Joan Baez, Paul McCartney and Melina Mercouri; who became a member of the European parliament and worked hard for UNICEF.

It is a spectacular career, and the largely grey haired audience had lived it with her, and learned to love her songs.

But, at 81, could she still sing them?

I will confess, as she sang her first song, a complex, difficult Greek ballad, that I wondered. Some of the magic was still there, but so were signs of age and of strain. Then came a haunting rendition of "To Make You Feel my Love" and some of the old magic was back. "Try to Remember", "Wild Rose" and "Turn on the Sun" left us in no doubt that Mouskouri could still manage to communicate joy on the edge of tears. And indeed the warm and appreciative response of the audience seemed to melt Mouskouri, and she showed warmth, and she shed tears.

Critics in the past talked about her "clinical perfection" suggesting that she sang with her head, not her heart.

At the Concert Hall her songs may not have been perfect, but the warmth and the feeling were palpable, as was the self deprecating humour.

As she stood front of stage in a flowing red caftan, and with her trademark spectacles and dark hair, she brought back so many memories.

Applause began at the start of favourite songs – the haunting "Scarborough Fair", Amy Winehouse's "Love is a Losing Game", "Your Love, My Love".

Singing has been very important for me," Mouskouri told us "I believe most of you must know I started singing very young, because my parents used to say it was the only thing I could do. I could sing and I could cry."

Her backing group of musicians were spell-bindingly good. Phillipe Pregno played and made the duet between Mouskouri and his saxophone in "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" one of the memorable highlights of the evening. Yannick Deborne's guitar virtuosity ranged from sensitive acoustic, through Greek rhythms, to screaming electric rock.

"My father was a projectionist" Mouskourii told us, sharing songs from films, accompanied by Luciano de Napoli on keyboard. For this group of songs, she sat, admitting that, at her age, she needed to rest her feet. "What can you do but laugh?" she said. And then came an unforgettable version of "Falling Leaves"

Nana Mouskouri seemed to be shedding the years as the concert moved towards its close. More high notes, more improvisation, more passion, more strength in the voice. Plaisir d'amour" showcased acoustic guitar, and the magical voice.

I remember in the seventies in a huge auditorium Mouskourii sang "Amazing Grace" without microphone and without backing, and both filled the space, and created a silence that was palpable.

This time she did it differently. In four four time, and with jazz backing she channelled Mahalia Jackson more than her former self, adding the gravel tones of an Ella Fitzgerald, throwing her whole self into the vibe, and sounding like someone half her age.

When we saw her first come on stage, we wondered if she still had what it took to command a crowd.

As she was about to leave we were in no doubt.

Some signs of age, some indications of frailty were there, but her warmth, and musicianship and the magic of her distinctive voice conquered it all, and made us feel that we had been privileged to be a part of a very special evening.
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Why? Nostalgia, and to see a legend
When: 9th April
Where: Concert Hall QPAC
Cost: $98 - $142
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