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Review: Hazel O'Connor, The Apex, Bury St Edmunds

By Nicola Miller

'I don't think of it as fashion, I think of it as energy,' said Hazel O' Connor in response to a question about longevity and a career lasting more than forty years, during her show at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds last night.

Billed as an evening with the BAFTA-nominated, award-winning singer-songwriter, featuring a rare screening of the digitally re-mastered uncut version of her film, 'Breaking Glass', a Q&A and live set, the show was less a retrospective, and more a declaration of intent. O'Connor is no butterfly on a pin and will not allow herself to be held hostage by the demands of a music industry that endlessly recycles nostalgia. Joined onstage by Clare Hirst (Bellestars, Communards, David Bowie) on sax, Sarah Fisher (Eurythmics) on keyboards and Josh Blackmore (Troyka/Strobes ) on percussion, the astonishing range of O'Connor's musical influences became clear. There was the beautifully modulated gospel of 'Driftwood', a ska-inflected reworking of Breaking Glass's 'Eighth Day,' and Hirst's haunting sax meandered through classics such as 'Will You', and 'I Will Always Be There', the latter based on a poem O'Connor's mum wrote for her children. Her Irish roots came to the fore when the band picked up bodhráns; the acoustics of The Apex being perfectly suited to their three-dimensional percussive energy.

Age has not withered the film Breaking Glass either. Sadly its themes- abuse, misogyny and exploitation in the music industry, the damaging effects the rise of the svengali-manager had on female creativity and image, and the malign violence of Far-Right politics and culture- are still topical. We still see righteous political anger in rap, and urban music in general, but too many musicians seem to be resting on their laurels. O'Connor is not one of them.

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