Saturday, 27 December 2014

A TOUCH OF CLASS: Stephanie and friends sizzle at the Redbones-hosted This Christmas

BETWEEN US: Stephanie and Rudy connect as they perform a winning duet.

As a singer one of the most valuable assets you can possess is a versatility that makes your performances both memorable and appealing. No doubt about it, classy singer-songwriter Stephanie Wallace-Maxwell has that down pat, and as a result we are consistently drawn to her like bees to honey. She fills her live shows usually hosted at Redbones with tunes that reel you in with their emotional resonance and a spirited delivery equal parts sugar and spice. That's why her latest gig, This Christmas, her final live performance for the year, worked so well.

Drawing a fair-sized crowd to the popular Argyle Road venue on Wednesday's Christmas Eve, the pint-sized belter expertly combined vibrant interpretations of holiday classics with several songs from her pool of favourites into a mix that satisfied and attracted regular shouts of encore. The competent backing band's rousing musicianship was another huge plus - not to mention the welcome boost she got from her Ashé peeps who lent their boundless energy and stylish harmonies to cuts like "Carol of the Bells," which gave the show a strong opening.

In December of 2013, Stephanie released The Christmas Collection, a fine CD featuring her take on some of the season's most beloved and well-known staples. A year later, they sound as fresh and creamy as ever, especially "The Little Drummer Boy", "Oh Holy Night" and "Mary, Did You Know?" The amazingly talented Rudy Tomlinson joined her for a duet of "Every Year, Every Christmas" a stunning vocal pas de deux that revealed a gorgeous dynamic between the two.

Sporting a long-sleeved white top, a black mini, red platforms, and a fluffy Cool-Aid-red mini-afro, Stephanie made no bones about shaking up the traditional formula with some non-Christmas numbers as well, including a few off her Real Woman EP, like "Say My Name", "Your Love" and the supersexy title track. 

And then, as if to punch up the flavour Jamaican style, we were treated to commanding renditions of Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved?" and Jimmy Cliff's "Rebel" (alongside Michael Sean Harris and Ashé) to send us off into the night with the apt reminder that, in addition to the food, the gifts, and friend-and-family moments, Christmas simply must be about the music.

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