And Here We Are, In Heaven
The opening act was the Paul James Band and can I just say where have they been all my life? He/they were absolutely fantastic (and, according to the website, available for weddings – I should think about getting married), played for a good 40 minutes and completely made me forget who I was there to see, which took some doing as I been hero-worshiping this woman for years. Decades, even. I’ve wanted to see her perform live for... well, I can't remember for how long, but it was a fantasy, really – I never thought it'd actually happen. Then one day, purely by coincidence, I saw the ad saying she'd be appearing at the Hummingbird Centre and I rushed out with my trusty credit card and got tickets to see
I was nervous. The hype in my head had built this evening up so high there was no way she could live up to it. I was nervous, because the vast majority of performers sound better on the CD then they do in person. I was nervous because I couldn't bear to have Etta not be as good as I thought she'd be.
She wasn't. She was better. She made a large hall feel like an intimate little club - she was charming, funny, sexy, just plain incredible. When she sang the first few notes of the first song, I clutched at mor (who I’d dragged with me), partly to communicate 'oh, good lord, she's good', partly to steady myself. Honestly. I had to steady myself, she was that good. There is nothing on her albums that prepares you for the live performance – it was like being in church. Like being in the presence of something greater-than, something sacred.
And then she sang my favourite love song, At Last (well, it's neck and neck with Out Of the Rain, also by her). It gave me chills, it made me weep, I forgot to breathe. It was transcendent. Towards the end, I remember thinking that now I could die a happy woman. The Danish part of me, the part that abhors hyperbole, challenged that as over-the-top, but y'know? It's true. This, naturally, doesn't mean that I would want to die anytime soon, but it definitely was one of those rare, once-in-a-lifetime moments that makes me grateful for my life. I feel blessed to have been there.
(did I mention she was good?)