When Gary Barlow launched his protégé Camilla Kerslake in the UK in 2009, we were introduced to a singer with an undeniably pure and beautiful voice, but who also lacked confidence and consistency. Suddenly finding herself in the spotlight, Kerslake tread carefully and uncertainly in both her singing and stage presence. If the album launch for her second album Moments in 2011 demonstrated that all of these problems were nothing but beginner's nerves, her private show An Evening with Camilla Kerslake, which took place last night, revealed a world class performer.
The concert was located in the cozy studio of St James Theatre, London, with an eclectic and small audience of what seemed to be press, industry officials and select fans. A far cry from where she performed just a few days prior; in London's sold out O2 Arena with Andrea Bocelli. Enthusiastically introduced, Kerslake graced the stage looking every inch the star. After a charming greeting, she sang 'Promise Land', an original song performed for the first time. It was a fitting opening; the first half demonstrated the pure and light vocal we're all familiar with, but the climatic second half foreshadowed the strength and control we were to be treated to for the rest of the set. The vocalise was operatic in nature and packed with such power that her voice was almost unrecognisable from her delicate debut album.
'Promise Land' was quickly followed by material from her previous albums; Kate Bush's 'This Woman's Work' and Take That's 'Rule The World'. Kerslake explained that the first had a wealth of new meaning as one of her parents had been diagnosed with cancer last year. Her performance of 'This Woman's Work' was the highlight of her Moments album launch, showing the scale of her emotional range. Her performance of it last night, however, was even more emotionally charged though she still maintained complete control over the technical aspects. For 'Rule the World', Kerslake introduced a guest vocalist, Lloyd Wade. Usually sung completely in Italian, Wade sung his parts in English with gusto and infectious passion. Though the odd 'who sings the next line?' mishap crept in, it was expertly covered up and would have been easily missed by those unfamiliar with the track.
Next was the performance of the evening. Warned to be "completely different" from her usual material, Kerslake swept into the narrative of Robyn's 'Dancing On My Own'. The song is stripped down to a simple piano and vocal arrangement and the focus is shifted to the lyrics. Kerslake delivered them with such genuine feeling and despair that it's instantly evident that she would be as confident on the West End stage as she is on the concert one. It's a complete transformation from the original and should be a staple in her repertoire from now on.
Dancer Stephanie Phillips took to the stage in an interlude. She danced gracefully for a minute or two before Kerslake joined her (in a different frock) to sing 'Life Is Not Long Enough To Forget You'. It was an effort to put in something different and switch up the format a bit; Phillips was stunning to look at, but the potential wasn't fully realised as the stage (and the room) was much too small to accommodate such an act.
Faure's 'Pie Jesu' from her first album and 'Bring Him Home' from Les Miserables remained. Her rendition of 'Pie Jesu' was several notches up from her recording - the high notes were heavenly and the power we heard from 'Promise Land' was back in full force, boasting of her capability to take on arias if she so chooses. She told us 'Bring Him Home' was to be the last song of the evening. No one believed it. As she sung the final note many stood up in appreciation and sure enough, there was a call for an encore. "Oh, I'm so surprised!" she announced ironically, much to the amusement of the crowd. She sung 'Jerusalem' with affection and in high spirits.
I've seen Kerslake live nearly half a dozen times, and the contrast between now and when she first started is just astonishing. Her stage presence is entrancing, her on stage banter both charming and funny, and her vocal is technically brilliant and powerful, as well as majestically beautiful. She carries herself well and her fashion and style are current and appealing. It's one thing to be talented (as she always has been) but sometimes, and very rarely, a talented person will cross a barrier that takes them from being merely talented, to a world class star. Camilla Kerslake has crossed that barrier and she's ready when the world is.
Find out more about Camilla at her official website.
Buy her latest album here.
Written by Nicola Jarvis : 20/11/2012
Thanks to Andrew Bone for the above video - recorded at the Moments album launch in 2011.
Blog - Editor's Blog