From Britain With Love
From Britain with Love, a musical extravaganza that originally showcased on April 2nd, 2015 at The Kay Meek Centre, had its second performance tonight at The Vancouver East Cultural Center. Featuring Vancouver-based jazz songstress Amanda Wood, this multimedia “tribute to the British Invasion celebrat[es] the torch and diva singers across the pond from the 60s to today” in which Wood belts out some of the musical hits of the UK’s musical greats, exhibiting musical flair and stylistic grace. In the end, we are transported across time and space.
As an actress who was born and raised in Victoria, and trained in acting, dance and music, Wood has a versatile acting career to include film, television and voice-over. She brings her diverse array of talents to the evening’s stage by lending her voice to some of the greatest hits of the British Invasion and linking to Britain’s history through narration and video.
Entering the stage—decked out with union jack flags—Wood is the epitome of the 60s performer, donned in a union jack mini dress, white leather platform boots, with her blond locks pulled back into the quintessential beehive. Opening with Petula Clark’s signature tune “Downtown,” Wood ingratiates the crowd with her vocal range, as we begin our journey through time. The stage is set.
In her arrangement of songs—international hits and the signature tunes in the 60s and 70s, Wood revives the music of young female British singers. Transitioning into the music of Dusty Springfield with old familiars, “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” “Wishin and Hopin’,” and “Son of a Preacher Man,” Wood gives us a taste of the sensuality, soul, and vocal stylings of this iconic singer. Wood then embraces the influence of Lulu—a Scottish singer who at age eighteen was the first British female singer to appear live behind the iron curtain—giving stunning performances of the 1964 hit song “Shout” followed by the 1967 release of what was to become Lulu’s signature song, “To Sir with Love.” As we move into the music of Cilla White, a British singer/actress who was discovered by The Beatles in Liverpool’s Cavern Club, Wood gives an inspiring performance of “Anyone Who Had a Heart”—White’s signature song that was the UK's biggest selling single by a female artist in the 1960s.
Entering the music of the 80s, Wood demonstrates her capacity for sultry and seductive interpretations through movement and vocal range in powerful renditions of Annie Lennox’s “Sweet Dreams” and Sade’s “Smooth Operator.” In both performances Wood exhibits a flirtatious playfulness with her band, something that is appreciated by both band and audience alike.
As the night progresses, and Wood announces that every good James Bond movie has an equally strong theme song, the band moves into an instrumental, and Wood returns to the stage in a gold sequined gown—exuding royalty. With conviction and beauty, Wood sings “for your eyes only, I never need to hide/ you can see so much in me, so much in me that's new, I never felt until I looked at you”, lulling the audience through a medley of tunes, leaving us in awe. When the songstress breaks into “Diamonds are Forever” I am compelled to hold my breath—thinking this is the highpoint in the show. But I am wrong. It is Wood’s rendition of Adele’s “Skyfall” “let the sky fall/ when it crumbles we will stand tall/ face it all together“ that stops me dead in my tracks. Wow! What a voice. And the dress…well, if you’re going to sing the part you might as well dress the part. Amanda Wood dressed the part. Hence, if there was a moment during the night, this was definitely it.
Following intermission the show has more of an upbeat tempo. Opening with a video of London scenery, fashion, and fad, Wood enters wearing red lace-up platform boots and a mini dress that dons the union jack. After belting out an impressive rendition of Jessie J. ‘s 2014 release of “Bang Bang,” Wood pays tribute to Duffy as she sings “Mercy.” Released in 2008, it was a song that established Duffy’s career, becoming her signature tune, and on this special night, it was a song that Wood dedicated to her mother, seated in the audience—in awe I’m sure.
As the evening winds down Wood pays homage to an iconic influence in her life: Lady Diana of Windsor. After talking about Lady Di’s influence we view a brief slideshow of Amanda’s life alongside Lady Di’s life. Bringing us to the next song, “Candle In The Wind,” Wood notes that this is the only song that is not part of the British Invasion; however, being that it is song that Elton John rewrote in honor of Lady Di, an influence the world over, this selection is very apropos. And Wood’s performance is stunning to say the least.
Transitioning into the Amy Winehouse’s recording of “Valerie”—a song written and recorded by the English indie rock band The Zutons in 2006 and recorded the following year by Winehouse and Mark Ronson—Wood brings the show to a close with a bang and an upbeat tempo. Given the recent release of Amy, a documentary that profiles Winehouse’s life, it is touching to end the night with Winehouse being the most recent female artist of the British Invasion.
While it is obvious to those of us in the audience who are unfamiliar with Wood, her music or her background, that the artist is embraced here by family, friends and fans, we are left with the sense that the show is not only a celebration of the music of the British Invasion but also, it is a celebration of Wood’s life; in fact, throughout the show Wood exudes a nostalgic appreciation for not only the music that the British Invasion gave the world but also for the people and the experiences in her life that have brought her to this moment in time. In closing, while tonight’s experience of the British invasion is unquestionably From Britain with Love it is also—without a doubt—from Amanda with love.
From Britain with Love was showcased on July 16, 2015 before a live audience at The Vancouver East Cultural Centre (The Cultch).
To contact Amanda Wood, or for more information, please go to her website* at www.amandapwood.com
*Please note, Wood’s website provides information on her schedule, resume, videos, and how to order music, and her most recent CD, Amanda Wood: Live in Shanghai