REVIEW: Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox
Michael Griffiths is Annie Lennox. He’s also a stubbly Australian man without the merest hint of her cool, immaculately arched eyebrow poise, but that doesn’t stop him pulling off a slick cabaret set of her greatest hits, stripped down for voice and piano.
At last year’s Fringe he gave the same treatment to Madonna and it’s clear why the formula is worth repeating: without the blare of synth, the lyrics take on a new emotional power that Griffiths’ honeyed, versatile voice is more than capable of exploiting. He makes full play of the rich religious imagery that haunts her songwriting, too: he slows down his opener ‘Missionary Man’ to milk it for every drop of sexual power, and lights a candle to sing ‘There Must be an Angel’. Thank heaven he decided not to replicate the song’s ecstatic falsetto trills.
The dark magic of Lennox’s superb songwriting suggests she must have made some kind of demonic pact to take her from Scottish Presbyterian-raised classical flute student to electro-pop demon. But Griffith’s narrative chooses light not darkness, exploring her love for her partner, then artistic collaborator Dave Stewart. Their rocky relationship during the Eurythmics years explains the gutsy power and complexity of songs like ‘Sweet Dreams’. And in Griffith’s hands, the ‘Why’ of her 1992 hit, freed from its cheesy orchestration, becomes a croon of utter despair.
The strangeness of Lennox’s androgenous presence, unsmiling, head flaming like a match, is lost. But Griffiths lights another fire, warming through her cool energy with the emotion that smokes through her lyrics.
Sweet Dreams: The Songs of Annie Lennox, The Boards, 9-11 Aug, 21:30
★★★★ by Alice Saville, Fest | 11 Aug