Vanessa Mae - Manchester Bridgewater Hall - 19.11.01

Its hard to believe it when Vanessa Mae introduces her first single as being 8 years old, but sure enough it still sounds as fresh and as feisty as when we first heard it. Essentially pushing the same buttons as Nigel Kennedy did throughout the 80's, Vanessa simply set out with one clear objection - making classical music accessible for the general public - and its one that has seen her appear aside top pop acts as well as the countries leading classical musicians. While Mae is clearly seen as the Britney of the classical world, one has to wonder whether Bond will be held in the same respect a few years down the line or whether they will simply be seen as a manufactured novelty act.

Strangely enough where Vanessa excels is on the more traditional songs in her repertoire. At the times the techno-classical crossover can seem a little contrived and in truth sounds a little dated...its as if she's got this picture in her head of a real revolutionary fusion and has asked the likes of M People for advice rather than Paul Oakenfold. Having said that the violin playing throughout is impeccable and to the predominantly middle age members of the audience it probably sound louder than war. As someone who's more likely to listen to Blur than Beethoven it really does open your eyes to realize just how limiting the traditional rock & roll set up is. In the space of two short hours Vanessa took us on a Rollercoaster ride of emotion - dipping us into the lowest low ("Solace", "Feel Like Ice") and then taking us up to the highest highs with "Storm" and "White Bird"!!!

After four years since her last Manchester performance it easy to see why people continue to come back for more. The only question I have to ask is where does she go next musically? Surely she can only push the techno direction so far before it becomes so safe and recognizable that it no longer becomes a challenge. Personally I'd love to see her really challenging the establishment and hooking up with the likes of Radiohead, Bjork and The Chemical Brothers. In truth though the record company probably see her as competing with the likes of Britney Spears and Samantha Mumba. Lets hope that musical innovation comes before the eager eyes of marketing managers.

Alex McCann