(Barbados Nation) Want to win over an audience of women? Tell them you’ve had your heart broken a time or two. Then in between songs, chat up the audience, relating with them and letting them sing along with you.
And of course it doesn’t hurt if you can actually sing and dance.
That was pretty much the scene Sunday night at the Naniki Caribbean Jazz Show at Ilaro Court when R&B soul songstress Melanie Fiona performed with her five-member band for the first time ever in Barbados, treating fans to songs from her first album The Bridge and the second one, MF Life.
The soulful singer strutted onstage at 7 p.m. displaying some killer legs and powerful pipes with the first track Watch Me Work, a sassy, catchy, pounding uptempo song that had her covering the stage with her dancing – and getting on funky.
Wearing leather Louboutin boots, a black tuxedo jacket (that came off by song No. 3 or 4), brown sequined shorts and a black tank top with a big chunky onyx necklace, 29-year-old Fiona then kicked the show into higher gear with Give It To Me Right, Ken Chapman shredding on drums.
“My name is Melanie Fiona and I’m about to turn this party up, if it’s all right by you,” she said to the mostly female audience, which had moved up to the barrier a good ten feet from the stage. They acknowledged with screams and Fiona screamed right back.
Fiona’s pain is our pleasure on Monday Morning with a sparse beat and breathy, sometimes husky lyrics. She started out slow, then upped the tempo.
“I like to tell stories for my fans on each project,” she said, and assured the crowd that it’s okay to love and be loved back.
The Grammy Award winner then served up an emotional rendition of her Cee-Lo Green-assisted Fool For You and powered through Wrong Side Of A Love Song, which is up for Best Traditional R&B Performance at next month’s Grammys, and her vocals soared as she sang this narrative to high heaven.
In between songs the petite beauty (seen after the show without her stiletto heels) chatted up the audience, at home in the Caribbean with her Guyanese background: “Shout out to my GT massive,” she said, endearing herself further to the crowd.
It Kills Me was the 2009 single that took her to the hallowed Grammys with a nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. And she killed it by being compelling, emotional and vulnerable.
“And it kills me to know how much I really love you – so much, I want to ooh-hoo-hoo with you-hoo-hoo,” she sang, asking her two female backup singers Tayma and Ashley to show the crowd how to ooh-hoo-hoo.
She said that while at the beach that day, she was told “Bajans don’t wine, they wuk up”, then did a little wuk-up at the end of Somebody Come And Get Me that had the crowd screaming and Fiona laughing.
She paid further homage to her West Indian roots with the reggae-tinged Ay Yo.
The power girl anthem Change The Record calls for ladies unsatisfied with their relationship to “do better – if you don’t like how he’s playing, then change the record.”
Granted, her lyrical content can be a bit woman-scorned cliché, but it is relatable.
On Break Down These Walls Fiona’s vocals are strong, demanding and even comforting as she weaves mid-range and low notes into a precise mid-tempo. The lyrics allow just over a minute to showcase guitarist Jesse Barnes. This song talks to both sexes about the trials and fears of heartbreak and her vocals carry the song.
At 7:41 p.m. with lights dimmed, she broke out the one the crowd seemed to be waiting for: “4 a.m. and my lover won’t answer/He’s probably somewhere with a dancer/Sipping champagne while I’m in his bed/4 a.m. and I think I might lose it/This man must be thinking I’m stupid/He must have bumped his head/Don’t he know it’s 4 a.m.?” with fierce vocals fuelling her rage. The initially serene beat builds up into pulse-racing drum patterns, adding more layers to the tension.
Bones, amid its sexual overtones, is as powerful and deep as Fiona’s provocative voice, haunting and teasing and settling like dusk around a candle. A song that will give you the chills – good chills.
She closed the set with the piano-heavy Gone And Never Coming Back. This song does the best job showcasing her vocal fireworks, and Tracy Martin, the female piano player, is as passionate as Fiona.
Melanie Fiona sure knows how to take us to the sea of heartbreak and it was her staple anthems that had women in the crowd screaming for the Holy Ghost and singing word for word. Fresh and raw, there is more to Melanie Fiona live than her studio albums and videos convey.
Many in the crowd who were largely unfamiliar with her discovered that her talent was undeniable. An incredible range of vocal styles and song flavours – talent, beauty and class in a nice small package.