Andy Howells reviews the American singer/songwriter’s Vonda Shepard’s Greatest Hits tour at the beautiful St George’s venue in Bristol
It was a trip over the Prince of Wales bridge to Bristol on Wednesday evening to catch American singer/songwriter Vonda Shepard on her greatest hits UK tour.
I became aware of Vonda’s work some years back, like so many, through her long running appearances, performances, and musical accompaniment on the US TV show Ally McBeal. These appearances paved the way for several best-selling albums and a UK top 10 hit of the series theme tune, Searchin’ My Soul.
Although Ally McBeal may have faded into the annals of TV history, Vonda Shepard’s music has continued to grow and flourish. So, I was excited to learn the artist was on a “Greatest Hits” UK tour celebrating a new album Red Light, Green Light as well as her classic material featured in Ally McBeal.
Therefore, Vonda, on piano, along with her band, James Ralston on lead guitar, Jim Hansen on bass and Fritz Lewak on drums took to the intimate and beautiful setting of St George’s on Wednesday night and delighted the audience with a cross section of original material and cherry-picked covers.
Between songs, Vonda recalled her previous trip to Bristol and a visit to a local restaurant, in which she had done a spot of journaling, then apologised profusely on realising two decades had elapsed between visits to the city. Vonda also commented on her 20-year collaboration with lead guitarist James Ralston, who has also now matched his previous collaboration with Tina Turner. Both Vonda and James clearly have a great stage rapport as demonstrated through the duet Chances Are, as James’ vocal stood in for that of Robert Downey Jr (whom, Vonda joked loved going on tour with her and was probably resting out the back somewhere).
There was a bevy of familiar material with a Vonda Shepard twist, of which the singer vividly displayed heart and soul by throwing back her head and performing classics such as Sweet Inspiration, Respect Yourself and the Walk Away Renee.
Vonda and her band also delivered much in the way of personal and uplifting, original material, such as Walk on the Water, Maryland and Vonda’s pandemic song (because “everyone has one”) To the Stars.
The show rounded up with Vonda, stepping away from the piano and on her feet with the band (akin to one of those infamous Ally McBeal TV gigs) belting out uplifting covers of 60s classics Hooked on a Feeling, Tell Him and I Only Want to Be with You.
The performance finished with Vonda back on the piano, performing a beautiful rendition of You Belong to Me, a track Vonda clearly meant for all fans present and undoubtedly a feeling reciprocated by her audience.