It helps, of course, if you are backed by a tight little band as good as the one she had on Sunday, who made even her lesser songs sound like the raw material for future hits. But when she did some of her new songs, like the apocalyptic 'Saint Joan', a qualitative change occurred and entertainment values were transcended, approaching the realms of fine art.
She looked a little nervous, possibly daunted by her august surroundings, but she needn't have been, because she has as much talent in her little finger as many Palladium bill-toppers have in their entire bodies. One thing, though: if she's going to play guitar on stage, she must beware of looking down to check her fingering as she sings, taking her voice off-mike.
Supporting her was Rab Noakes, a fellow Scotsperson whose career has gone up and down and, hopefully, is about to take an upward curve with a new record company and, once again, some fairly strong original material behind him.
This was a rare and entertaining evening of music and song. (Karl Dallas)
DAVENPORT THEATRE, STOCKPORT - 11 MAY, 1984 ('MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS')
Few concert performers could follow up a John Lennon song with one by Gracie Fields and expect to get away with it.
After all, there's not a lot in common between the psychedelia of A Day In the Life and the 1930's chirpiness of Sing As We Go. But at the Davenport Theatre, Stockport, last night Barbara Dickson proved herself equal to interpreting both, displaying along the way the breadth of a talent that is only just being recognised for its true worth.
In the eight years since Answer Me took her into the hit parade for the first time, she's had a string of hits that have never really set the charts on fire either with singles or albums. Rather, the Scottish singer has transcended pop and concentrated instead upon quality.
Her performances on the West End stage in Willy Russell's Blood Brothers have earned her rave reviews and built a confidence into her stage craft which is completely without gimmickry.
Barbara Dickson is one of the "straightest" singers of contemporary music. But the sweetness of her voice, the melody of a meticulously chosen repertoire, and last night's expertise of a five-piece backing group, avoided any possibility of a descent into blandness. (Ray King)
GLASGOW THEATRE ROYAL - 27 October, 1988 ('GLASGOW HERALD')
While Britain has produced many popular female singers, and one or two blessed with exceptional interpretive skills (Dusty Springfield a notable example), there seem to be very few who can accurately be described as a true chanteuse. A tough role to fill, it requires a very special talent, an ability to make any song a personal statement - regardless of the material's origin - without resorting to stage gimmicks or histrionics.
Increasingly, it seems, one artist stands out as being (perhaps uniquely) qualified to take the title, and in Barbara Dickson's present concert programme, currently at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, we can see that the years of experience have provided a bedrock for her exceptional talent.
What has emerged in recent years is a fuller, richer tone in the lower and middle register.
The range she covers is impressive: from the Pointer Sisters funk of Hey You to contemporary Irish ballads and Australian rock. The popular hits are there too (the history of her first chart success, Answer Me, given in a fascinating account) with the Rice/Abba I Know Him So Well given a schizophrenic twist by the change from duet to solo.
A trio of songs from other shows provides an early highlight, with a beautiful pointed reading of Kurt Weill's September Song from Knickerbocker Holiday; Ms Dickson's voice the perfect instrument for its bittersweet melody.
Her band responds well to the diversity of musical styles, rising magnificently to the climactic strains of torch/rock in I'm Not Missing You, and contributes much to a classy evening. (Christopher Bowen)
CAFE ROYAL, LONDON - DECEMBER 1993 ('THE TIMES')
An occasional visitor to the Top 40 since 1976, when her calling card was "Answer Me", Barbara Dickson has never quite made sense as a mainstream pop singer. Her voice is simply too well-constructed to sit comfortably with the necessary rhythmic banality, and she has creatively confused matters by her association with various musicals, from "John Paul George Ringo...& Bert", via "Evita" and "Blood Brothers", to "Chess".
On stage or record, she has enjoyed success with such songs from the shows as "I Know Him So Well", "Another Suitcase In Another Hall" and "Easy Terms". She included only the latter two in her opening night programme at the Piccadilly room where she is appearing until December 24.
Though, as she pointed out, the Green Room could hardly be further in ambience from the folk clubs of her early days, it does resemble them in size and audience numbers, and she began with an unaccompanied tilt at Ewan MacColl's "The First Time".
This set a folk, if not folksy tone - her elegant black outfit and increasingly relaxed sophistication being supper-club rather than singers' club - for an hour-plus show. The voice, as true as ever, has gained in strength from her stage work, and has a thrilling, Streisand-like quality in the upper register.
Her choice of contemporary songs, from Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years", via Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going To Rain Today" and James Taylor's "Millworker" to Leonard Cohen and Jennifer Warnes's "Song Of Bernadette", was nothing if not challenging; while the standards included "I Cover The Waterfront", a beautifully judged "Lush Life" and a rather edgy "Falling In Love Again". The sensitive musical director and pianist was Ian Lynn, and the phenomenal Pete Zorn played guitar, saxophone, clarinet, penny-whistle and flute, switching instruments between songs or between choruses of the same song with apparent ease.
Willy Russell's "Easy Terms", which was, with her own performance, much the best thing about the first West End production of "Blood Brothers", showed off her range to advantage; but perhaps the song which most nearly defines her voice is the plangent "Another Suitcase", from "Evita".
With the film version finally under way, she should be a front-runner to repeat her record role before the cameras. Meanwhile, the chance to hear her sing a personal choice of favourite good songs should not be missed. (Tony Patrick)
PHILHARMONIC HALL, LIVERPOOL - 26 FEBRUARY, 2007 ('LIVERPOOL ECHO')
It was billed as an evening with Barbara Dickson. It was more than that. It was a musical travelogue through the work of a versatile musician who takes her work very seriously.
Barbara said: "This is a homecoming." She added that if she said more she would blub. So she didn't. The Dunfermline-born singer turned actress and musical star let the songs speak and sing for themselves.
She opened with George Harrison's If I Needed Someone - a track from her last commissioned album Nothing's Gonna Change My World - and that wistfully led into In The Bleak Mid Winter and Here Comes The Sun. This went back to her superlative work on John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert by Willy Russell, who she praised throughout the show.
Barbara is a perfectionist not just in the studio but about how she is perceived as an artist. This was a show that had something for everyone of all ages. Her tributes to Dylan were faultless, aided by her four-piece band, notably Troy on Pipes and Pete on sax. While she did a bluesy Blowing In The Wind you could also enjoy her folk roots with the Lowlands of Holland and the Corpus Christi Carol.
Then she throws this musical pack of cards in the air and provides a James Taylor classic with Millworker. She did a few Fab Four songs, notably Things We Said Today that would not look out of place in the charts today.
But then back to her stage hits: I Know Him So Well from Chess and Willy Russell's heart-tugging Easy Terms from Blood Brothers.
Caravans sealed a night for her fans and for those not familiar with her work it was a concert that captured 40 years of this consummate performer. She left the stage to a standing ovation. She didn't blub... but some members of the audience did.
BRAMPTON LIVE FOLK FESTIVAL - 19 JULY, 2009 ('CUMBERLAND NEWS')
The Scottish singer went back to her folk roots in an extensive set that showed she had lost none of the vitality that propelled her to international stardom in the 1980s.
This was folk music arching back in time, redolent of misty hills, tribal tales and deep emotions. There was even the Corpus Christi Carol, something she had waited 35 years to perform. As well as songs from various albums, notably Parcel of Rogues and the latest one, Time and Tide, there was also an unusual selection of covers. James Taylor’s little-known Millworker, about an overworked American labourer, gently tugged the heartstrings.
A Swedish song, Silence of the Dawn, earned cheers from the crowd, and turned out to be written by Abba’s Benny Andersson. Four Strong Winds made fine use of her proud voice set against the backing of the uilleann pipes. Only Bob Dylan's Don't Think Twice, It's Alright missed the mark.
Apart from Barbara's beautiful, still-strong voice, there was the fine musicianship of her five-man backing group, playing a variety of instruments, with the haunting sounds of many different pipes lingering long in the mind.
Barbara is a mesmerising performer, both in her interpretation of the lyrics and in her stage presence. She let each song unfold in her own time, her voice expressing every nuance of the words and music. She shared her memories of starting off in folk clubs in the 1960s – she sounded like a singer who had come home to her first love – folk music. (Matthew Burrell)