These tracks are very reminiscent of the show Duffy performed in Montreal in October 2008. The following is a comment I made after that concert and I believe it is still relevant today. If you have read this comment before, I apologize for posting it, but if you have not read it please enjoy. PS. I continue to be a die hard Duffy admirer and wish her well in all her endeavors.
To see Duffy live on stage at this point in her career (Oct. 24 at the Metropolis in Montreal) is to marvel at the beauty and wonder of crocuses and daffodils poking through the last vestiges of snow in the early spring. The seemingly fragile flowers are so obviously tenacious and not to be denied.
Duffy’s dignity and power are unbridled. She has the decidedly rare ability to evoke a sense of ecstacy. "The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it." (St. Teresa: Chapter XXIX; Part 17, The Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila)
It is time to move past questions about whom Duffy sounds like, to an acceptance that her heart is true and her sound is her own. Musicologists acknowledge that anyone singing or writing in blues, soul, rock, jazz, pop, rap, dixieland, swing, scat, and even country and folk is, at least tangentially derivative of, and owe a debt of gratitude to, Louis Armstrong. Furthermore, the great Satchmo himself happily acknowledged incorporating influences from such disparate sources as Guy Lombardo, Latin music, American folk songs, classical symphonies and opera. The bountiful tree of Western music is just that —fruitful and generational.
What is wrong with Duffy’s music or voice reminding listeners—for a myriad of reasons—of Roy Orbison, Diana Ross, Billie Holiday, Norah Jones, Janice Joplin, Darlene Love, Amy Winehouse, Ronnie Spector, Dusty Springfield, Brenda Lee, Connie Francis, or any other performers? No one has a monopoly on singing about unrequited, dangerous, painful love.
Duffy’s stage performance provides incites into her talent and character. When listening to her recorded work one is left with the question: Can she really sing that powerfully and mournfully, or is her voice somehow enhanced or doctored in the recording process? Such doubts are forever laid to rest throughout her live performance. Nuance, power, depth and "harrowing rawness" (Walters, Barry: SPIN Magazine, May 13, 2008) are stunningly confirmed.
The brilliant musicians who form her band are more than capable of producing the breadth of sound necessary to enhance Duffy’s range of mood and volume, which are, at various times, subtle, haunting, throbbing, and pounding. As a measure of her force as a singer, at a few points when the band was fully rocking out—the percussion at a level that changed the pulse of your heart, the keyboard and guitars taking your breath away—almost as an auditory illusion, there was Duffy’s soaring voice, somehow dominant and above the tumult.
It is not just her voice that one is struck by. The quirky hand gestures that are oddly endearing in the videos, seem, on stage, to be indicative of communication between Duffy and her band mates, similar to the orchestral directives employed by Van Morrison in concert. She may not be a "control freak" but, as she says, she has "nothing else in [her] life that [she cares] about right now." (Duffy in, Petusich, Amanda: Duffy: Girl From the North Country. SPIN Magazine, Aug., 1, 2008, p. 61)
Duffy definitely cares. My girl friend and I were standing four to five feet back from the very center of the stage at the Metropolis in Montreal on Oct. 24th, and from that vantage point one could see the sweat, the passion in her eyes, the knowing glances between the band mates, and the pride on the faces of everyone on stage—knowing they are part of something very special. One does not make music the way Duffy and her band mates do unless one cares.