HAZEL O’CONNOR – THE ROPETACKLE ARTS CENTRE, SHOREHAM-BY-SEA 05.04.19
It seems as though the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham is like a magnet to Hazel O’Connor as not only was she performing here tonight, but she appeared at the same venue six years ago and also in 2010, where you can see a photo from that performance on her main Wikipedia page HERE. I can understand why she returns time and time again as not only is it a lovely building but all of the volunteers are kind and helpful.
You may recall that talented musician and actress, Hazel O’Connor was one of the first major female star of the 80s, when she rose to fame in 1980, when she starred in the iconic film, ‘Breaking Glass’ in which she played a singer struggling to cope within the music industry. Sadly, this was to be the case in her music career as she battled over copyrights and clauses for a number of years. However, her determination persevered and she now happily records and tours with her friends Sarah Fisher and Clare Hirst.
I must confess that O’Connor had disappeared off of my radar for a number of years. However, now she’s back with a new album entitled ‘Hallelujah Moments’, that was released on Monday 22 October 2018. It celebrates Hazel’s very own Hallelujah Moments, and as we discovered this evening in Shoreham that Hazel is an interesting person.
There was no support act tonight as Hazel was determined to perform two sets. The first being around 40 minutes in length and the second was around 100 minutes. As indicated earlier, she was not alone on stage, but in fact accompanied by virtuoso saxophonist Clare Hirst (The Belle Stars, Communards, David Bowie) on sax and vocals and Sarah Fisher (Eurythmics) on keyboards and vocals. This thankfully gave the sold out crowd a powerful blend of voices and musicianship and thus bringing a classy touch of energy, passion and fire to the vibrant performance.
I found this evening rather fascinating and would even go as far as to say that I enjoyed the anecdotes of Hazel’s life the most interesting part of the evening. We all learnt quite a bit about her. For instance, the aforementioned copyright and clauses situation that put her out of action for a while was elaborated on. She resides in Ireland in a cottage up a hill. She has had a bad knee and so managed to get through several tv box sets whilst laid up last year. She has a brother called Neil (who was also in The Flys) and he played guitar in her first band called Megahype.
We learnt that her best friend was her mum and that she lived in Coventry, but sadly passed away and Hazel wrote ‘I’ll Give You My Sunshine’ about her, which she kindly performed for us during her first set.
We were informed that Hazel is rather partial to Nina Simone and during the first set she performed a cover of ‘Do What You Gotta Do’ which was the b-side of Nina’s 1968 hit ‘Ain’t Got No, I Got Life’. Hazel conveyed that her track ‘Monsters In Disguise’ from ‘Breaking Glass’ was penned about the Prime Minister of the time Margaret Thatcher. But before we get all heavy with politics, we all found her recount of the time when the film ‘Breaking Glass’ was being premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and she was in a theatre box and as the final song ‘If Only’ was being played, the searchlight located her whilst the audience were giving her a big applause and the person that she was with encouraged Hazel to stand up and take a bow, she obliged, but had forgotten that she she undone her trousers button and down they came! Talk about a punk thing to do or what! Even if it was an accident.
When the ladies performed ‘Come Into The Air’, (from the ‘Breaking Glass’ album) Hazel explained that it was written all about fame and stars struggling to cope with it, and yet at that time she was not yet famous herself, but this was sadly a sign of things to come.
The opener of part two of the show was ‘My Friend Jack’. Hazel delivered the story behind it as it was when she lived in the USA, she used to see this homeless guy called Jack every day. She asked him his story and it turns out that he got busted for smoking weed and so he was given the option of going to jail or fighting for his country in Vietnam. He unfortunately, chose the latter and was never the same again!
Hazel tonight enjoyed dipping into the classics and performed a cover of Ray Charles tune entitled ‘Hard Times’ as well as Billie Holiday’s ‘God Bless The Child’.
It seems that Hazel can be a sensitive soul as her song ‘Wakey Wakey’ was penned on the morning of the election of Donald Trump – she cried and poured out her emotions in this lovely composition. Also ‘I Will Always Be There’ was this evening dedicated to the recently departed Ranking Roger from The Beat.
To lighten the mood for the final number ‘Still Breathing’, Hazel told her surfing story when she took the board out for the first time and hit a few waves and enjoyed herself until she hit one too many and was washed up on the beach. She stood up in front of everyone and conveyed how cool it was, but inadvertently her bikini top had slipped to reveal all!
Musical highlights for myself was ‘Eighth Day’, ‘Will You’ (especially Clair’s terrific sax solo) and their cover of Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’.
For more information on Hazel O’Connor, click HERE.
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