Date: June 19, 2019
Venue: Terminal 5 (New York City)
Tour: Still On My Mind Tour
The return of British chanteusse Dido with a new album titled “Still On My Mind” (her fifth album) was undoubtedly one of the more anticipated returns of a veteran artist in 2019. The icing on the cake was Dido’s announcement of a world tour – her first in fifteen years.
While the tutelage from her older sibling Rollo (founding member of the dance trio Faithless) drew Dido into the world of recording music, it was her vocal feature on rapper Eminem’s hit single “Stan” that catapulted her to fame. “Thank you”, the song from which vocals were borrowed for “Stan” become Dido’s first and only #1 single in the US. Her debut album “No Angel” peaked at #4 on the Billboard albums chart – a commendable achievement for a debutant. Dido’s sophomore album “Life For Rent” demonstrated an artist that was blossoming further with instant and addictive tracks such as the uptempo “Sand in my shoes” and the trippy “Stoned” – both of which borrow the best of electronic dance music and fuse it with her ethereal vocals. Her third album “Safe trip home” was a rather somber affair – probably too somber for the American mainstream. It was also the first sign of Dido’s disappearance from the American limelight. As a result, some of the stellar moments on her fourth album titled “Girl Who Got Away” (especially the album’s achingly sublime title track) went rather unnoticed (although it did peak in the top 5 on the UK album charts). Her 2019 offering “Still on my mind” seems to be at odds with the notion of instant gratification and Dido seems perfectly at ease with that reality. Songs such as “Hurricanes” and “Hell After This” are manifestations of minimalism that morph slowly into sonic grandeur a minute or two into the songs. Those that judge that a song based on its first minute are likely to not give some of the songs from “Still on my mind” a chance. Fortunately, in a concert, there is no skip button and the songs get a chance to be showcased in the way they deserve to be. To say that Dido milked this opportunity for what it’s worth would be quite the understatement. Needless to say, this was a concert that had the audience walking out of Terminal 5 (the concert venue) with varying levels of dizzying euphoria at the end.
At 8 pm, acoustic pop singer-songwriter Jack Savoretti took to the stage with two guitarists and a drummer. For most concerts I have attended, the audience has been quite uninterested in the opening act. With Savoretti, it was different. What many in the audience did not know is that he’s had a UK #1 album with “Singing to strangers” earlier this year and has been the beneficiary of praise from artists such as Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue (who he collaborated with on the single “Music’s Too Sad Without You” from her last UK #1 album “Golden”), and Natalie Imbruglia. Furthermore, he has been around in the music scene for over a decade. He drew the audience in with relative ease through songs such as “Other Side of Love” and “Singing to strangers” – the genesis of which he shared with the audience after telling us a story of his daughter explaining to a friend what her father does for a living – which is essentially “singing to strangers”. Savoretti’s understated charisma is an asset he is not shy to share as he said “hopefully at the end of this set, we leave as friends even though we started off as strangers. I do have two more songs to perform and things can go wrong”. It is safe to say that at the end of the set, many in the audience had started to google him on their phones.
Around 30 minutes later, it appeared that the “minimalism to sonic grandeur” approach that characterizes a few of the songs on Dido’s new album seemed to have been turned on its head. Dido’s band opened with a minute-long segment of the trip-hop ending (with a live band treatment) of “Hurricanes” – the first song that Dido previewed when she announced the release of her new album “Still on my mind” towards the end of 2018. This kicked off a 90-minute set that left the audience mesmerized. Dido could have easily played it safe with a setlist that featured a heavy dose of songs from “No Angel” and “Life For Rent” with her US #1 single “Thank you” being the post-encore concluding track of the evening. Instead, she opted to perform this song smack in the middle of her set. In doing so, she marched to the beat of her own drum and the audience was better off for it. Furthermore, she was able to eschew some of these rather expected clichés (e.g. playing “Thank you” at the end) since a non-trivial percentage of the “sexy but civilized” audience (as Jack Savoretti referred to the audience as being) seemed to be intimately familiar with her entire catalog. The attendees were not mere casual fans. They were true connoisseurs. In view of this, Dido was able to do justice to each chapter of her career in her setlist with the third album “Safe trip home” getting the least representation.
Dido glided back and forth effortlessly between the two realms that have come to define her sonic palette – soulful and heart-wrenching songs with an electronic dance music foundation and folksy stripped down acoustic downtempos. Oddly enough, the finest moments (from a vocal perspective) were on some of her career’s less celebrated moments such as “No Freedom”, “Sitting on the roof of the world” (with Dido playing the guitar) and a rather hypnotic rendition of “Grafton Street” (a vast improvement over the studio original).
In my humble opinion, the concert’s finest moment was Dido’s performance of “Sand in my shoes”(with “Grafton Street” being a close second). The goose-bump inducing tribal percussion right before the song’s Middle 8 was performed live. Jody Linscott was a force to be reckoned with as she swiftly moved from one percussion instrument to the next.
Audience participation was at its greatest on songs such as “Thank you”, “Life for Rent”, “Here with me”, and the evening’s closer “White Flag”. On these songs, Dido held out her microphone towards the audience and had them sing one chorus entirely on their own as she basked in the adulation of the crowd.
Dido offered a glimpse into her life as she introduced some of the songs. “Sand in my shoes” was described as an ode to a holiday romance (she polled the audience to see just how common this was). “Give You Up” (the finest track on the new album) was referred to as the grinding halt to that romance. “See you when you’re 40” was meant as an insult to a person for whom she thought turning 40 spelled misery. Her introduction to “Here to stay”, a reflection of love for her son Stanley was a tear-jerker. She also apologized for being away for 15 years and not touring for her third and fourth albums. What many might not know is that these albums coincided with life-defining events. “Safe trip home” was recorded after the demise of Dido’s father while “Girl Who Got Away” was the album that ushered her into parenthood. Both these events kept her away from the touring circuit for what seems like eternity.
The most heartwarming moment of her banter with the audience was a story that dates back exactly 20 years. Dido described the day her debut album “No Angel” released in June 1999. She hung around the iconic Virgin Megastore in Times Square (New York City) to see who would buy her album and noticed an individual dancing while he was listening to her album at a listening station. This indescribable moment is something she considers one of the best days of her lives. For those that remember listening stations, this story undoubtedly revives memories of a time when the consumption of music was far less private and the emotion around that consumption being far less subdued. Dido’s on-stage demeanor, derived from a seductive blend of humility and gratitude, serves as a refreshing contrast to the narcissism that has come to define some of the modern crop of pop stars.
Putting together a setlist that reflects every aspect of her career while in essence compensating for not having toured for her last two albums must have been a daunting task for Dido. This also means that the show did have a few missed opportunities. Noteworthy examples include “Everything to lose” (probably the biggest missed opportunity of her career), the title track of the “Girl Who Got Away” album, and “NYC” (a single featured exclusively on her “Greatest Hits” album). “NYC”, in particular, would have been apt considering Dido explained that New York City was where it all truly began for her despite her being from the UK.
Dido’s epic rise to fame was a glimmer of hope for the future of music at a time that coincided with the largest disruption to the music industry. That hope shines even brighter today as Dido retains the creative and vocal spark that turned her into an international sensation. Furthermore, through her performance at Terminal 5, she reiterates the idea that pop music does NOT have to be devoid of style, class, intellect, and elegance to be truly accessible and commercially viable for a mass audience. Her concert last night is the type of experience that great memories are made of. I can barely wait to see what she does next.
STAR RATING: 5 out of 5 stars
We are an American internet radio station that broadcasts worldwide. The station features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. The music of Dido (including the new single “Take You Home”) is a regular staple on our station. Alongside music by new artists, we play plenty of newer music by bands that rose to prominence in the 80s and the 90s. Noteworthy examples include Tears For Fears, Duran Duran, Robbie Williams, Lighthouse Family, Take That, Camouflage, Spandau Ballet, Jamiroquai, Suede, The Corrs, Dubstar, a-ha, George Michael, INXS, Depeche Mode, Johnny Hates Jazz, Simple Minds, and Culture Club.
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