Gabrielle - Manchester M.E.N Arena - 15.6.02

I think it surprised us all a little when we found out that Gabrielle was embarking on a sold-out arena tour, but it shows just how far she has come over the past couple of years. There was a time after all where she could have been resigned to Golden Oldies hell and simply lived of the royalties from her massive international hit "Dreams"...and we wouldn't have blamed her as at the time (and to a large extend still is) the music industry wasn't interested in true talent and was content to push out 2 young naive pretty faces and get the quick buck. Of course proving that true talents will always win over the hardest of cynics she released "Sunshine" which to this day is an all time classic and quite possible one of the greatest single ever recorded. And from that moment it was sold out dates, Greatest Hits compilations, film soundtracks and reassurance that we will not let Gabrielle simply fade away for a second time.

After an absolutely blinding set from support act Damage (Ed: Make sure to read our in-depth review) the real star of the night walks on with ankle length white leather coat and un-diva like pair of jeans. As she is the first to admit the coat is simply to cover up her fuller figure and come on lets be honest - this is real soul music and we've come her for her vocal chords, not to look at some skinny waif Jodie Kidd like figure up there. What's really clear though from the outset is that Gabrielle has been getting down to rock music over the past few months as barely a moment passes without her throwing air-guitar manoeuvres and her backing band are cranked up to 11.

The big question is where do you start with a back catalogue spinning over a decade? I guess the only solution is to roll out the hits and sure enough she does one by one until we've heard "When A Woman", "Out Of Reach", Sunshine", Give Me A Little More Time" and "Don't Need To The Sun To Shine (To Make Me Smile)". That's just the tip of the iceberg before Coree from Damage replaces Brian Harvey for the duet "If You Ever" which was was originally performed with Harvey's old band East 17. "Rise" segues into the "Knocking On Heaven's Door" original as she has on previous tours and there's no forgetting the stunning rendition of "Walk On By".

And after and hour and half of the most beautiful music we've ever heard she leaves the stage with "Dreams really can come true, just look at me" and plays that all time classic which doesn't even need mentioning. Gabrielle simply seems to be climbing higher and higher with each successive tour and who could deny her this success.

Alex McCann

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