Review by Paul Cole
It has been a long time in the waiting. After three years of supporting the likes of Jools Holland, Coldplay and David Gray on tour, home-grown heroine Carina Round is anxiously waiting in the wings for her first Birmingham headline gig.
Playing on your own doorstep, after all, is a daunting prospect. Especially when expectations are running high from a unanimous round of debut album reviews from the critics. Hell, there are family and friends out there, too.
The diminutive songbird literally stumbles on to the stage, uncertainty in her step, then saves face by good-humouredly reprising the entrance. She seems unprepared for - even confused by - the wall of noise that greets her. A sell-out crowd offers up wild adulation more fitting for the triumphant end of a gig than before a single note has been played. 'Are you all on commission?' Round warily asks, before launching into The Lightbulb Song.
Forget previous gigs you may have seen. Gone is the coy semi-plugged shyness of old. Fender to the fore, backed by Marcus Galley's bombshell drums and Simon Smith's roof-rumbling bass, Carina Round goes ballistic.
That she achieves the transformation without sacrificing any of the artistic integrity that has been a hallmark of her career is little short of a miracle. The passionate poetry of Message To Apollo confirms her newfound
All the album tracks follow, interrupted by the heartachingly bittersweet Idiot Dance - the song Round wrote with roots star Ryan Adams backstage at Ronnie Scott's, and which yearns to be a crossover single choice.
She wears her influences on her sleeve, her vocal one moment recalling Zeppelin heyday Robert Plant, the next throaty Nina Simone, but remains very much her own woman.
Good-natured banter with the fans punctuates a memorable hour-long set eventually closed by trademark On Leaving, its sexually-charged urgency leaving the crowd baying for more.
Carina Round stands on the brink of greatness. When she becomes a national name (and it will be soon) this will be the night the diehards treasure, one day to tell their grandchildren about.
Originally printed in the Birmingham Sunday Mercury on 3rd June 2001
Review by Oliver Kirkland
Four summers ago Carina Round, then an unknown 17-year-old, made her fist public appearance at the Flapper and Firkin supporting the wasted genius that was Micky Greaney.
Even then it was impossible not to discern something a little bit extraordinary in the unrestrained fervour and startling intensity of her delivery. On Wednesday night, the Wolverhampton-born chanteuse returned to the very same venue for the final show of her maiden nationwide headlining tour and highlighted the extent to which that raw talent has evolved over the intervening years.
Carina's recent debut mini-album The First Blood Mystery might be far from flawless - the opening two tracks do not really translate well to their recorded forms and, over 37 minutes, the singer is occasionally over-stretched by her well intentioned ambitions - but live she genuinely has no equals. Buoyed - and almost overwhelmed at times - by a rapturous reception from the sell-out crowd, Carina gave possibly the finest performance a Birmingham audience has witnessed by any artist since the late Jeff Buckley played Edwards
back in 1994.
Possessor of a voice of description-defying versatility, Carina managed to bring meaning and poignancy to every one of her manifold musical and lyrical conceptions over the course of an hour-long set which concluded with Blood Mystery's climactic closer On Leaving, a song so charged and intimate that you feel almost deviant for not leaving the room before the end. Be assured, history will judge Carina Round to be the most important female singer-songwriter of her generation.
Originally printed in the Birmingham Post on 1st June 2001