Review: Janis Ian, Queen’s Hall


Monday, 31st October 2011, 9:04 am

Having written her first hit single at the age of 13, in 1965, it is extraordinary that Janis Ian still sounds as remarkable today as she did back in the late 60s and early 70s.

From the outset Ian has the audience captivated and they hang on her every word. Renowned as one of the great American songwriters, it would be an injustice not to add “storyteller” to that title. Almost every song of the evening is accompanied by an anecdote told with such heartfelt emotion, you might have been right there with her when it happened.

From the comedic account of writing her life story, told in My Autobiography, to the tear-inducing tale of her mother’s battle with multiple sclerosis, sung about in I Hear You Sing Again, Ian uses her impeccable storytelling skills to reach the audience in ways many singers can only dream about.

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With only a microphone, an acoustic guitar and herself to keep the audience entertained, her stage presence is flawless. Queen’s Hall does well to compliment her character and personality the entire evening; small enough to remain intimate, yet large enough to hold the overwhelming number of people here to listen to her stories.

Armed with a fairly impressive back catalogue, Ian chooses a variety of songs to sing from over the years, including the previously mentioned debut hit single, Society’s Child, which is introduced with a tale from long ago when Ian was 15 and reduced to tears on stage by some racist hecklers at a show; the moral of the story being that she was courageous enough to eventually continue singing and defeat the bigots with just her guitar.

Also present is her Grammy award-winning track At Seventeen. A jazz number illustrates her uninhibited guitar skills with a long instrumental finger-picking session and a cover of the Beatles’ Love Me Do goes down particularly well, sung in a mellow, almost sombre affair.

As the night comes to a close, an old familiar tune, Jesse, once covered by Roberta Flack, is belted out a cappella to a positively mesmerised and thoroughly satisfied crowd.