Performer: Anne Steele
Musical Director: William TN Hall
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
Ever since The Greatest Showman hit cinemas, Pasek and Paul’s songs from the film have come to dominate the cabaret circuit. At least, the self-affirming This Is Me has. New York singer-songwriter Anne Steele, at the Crazy Coqs for two nights to promote her EP Made Out of Stars, opens her show with Come Alive – a less well-utilised number from the film, but one which sets out her stall from the off.
For Steele’s set, which proceeds at a brisk pace for the entirety of its hour-long duration, is full of life and enthusiasm. For Steele, that enthusiasm is for her personal life – her wife gets numerous loving mentions, as well as a song (Obsessed) about Steele’s love for her – as well as London’s theatre scene; a joy-filled extended riff about the greatness of the musical Six is not necessary, but is highly appreciated.
The song from Steele’s EP are mostly presented as backing tracks with live vocals from Steele and her backing singers, Jessica Lovelock and Chelsey Chantelle. The highly produced electro-rock sound of those songs would be hard to reproduce by an onstage three-piece band, but despite the recorded nature of the music, Steele’s vocals are undoubtedly the star.
Where the band comes in useful are for the other songs in Steele’s set, a variety of covers from Robyn to Stevie Wonder. Steele keeps her inter-song banter short, but each number is given the right amount of context to justify why she considered it worthy of inclusion.
One particular highlight of these covers is what Steele terms “a break-up mash-up”, a combination of Alanis Morrisette’s You Oughta Know and Demi Lovato’s SNS. Steele engagingly frames the pairing as how you’d react after bumping into an ex when you’re not ready to see them, and then five years later when you are. The juxtaposition is typical of Steele’s approach to music: as she says elsewhere, the art of the songwriter is to relate something of the listener’s life even as they are writing about their own.
By the time the all-too-short set concludes with an acoustic version of Love Can Take Us There, the song Steele wrote in response to the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016, the performer has the audience completely in her pocket. And yes, by the end, she has performed This is Me from The Greatest Showman. But by that time, she’s earned it. This is Anne Steele: a proud, confident performer who inspires the same from her audience.
Continues until April 4 2019 | Image: Contributed