RONNIE SCOTTS, LONDON - APRIL, 1976
Record Mirror - 1976
With one hit single and a well-received album out, the timing seemed right to launch Barbara Dickson on a critical audience of journalists. She passed with flying colours.
A lot of people are waking up to the fact that in Ms. Dickson Britain might finally have found an answer to the seemingly endless successful stream of American female vocalists.
Ably assisted by a small band of musicians (with the exception of the drummer who sometimes seemed keener on making a noise than playing in sympathy with the song) she sang a selection of numbers from her album, including her new single, 'People Get Ready'.
She also made Bill Withers' 'Lean On Me' sound fresh - no mean feat. A very natural lady with a very pure voice - and no small talent at writing songs either.
For the encore, she was joined by her producer Junior Campbell, who took over piano duties and finished to well-earned applause. Whatever happens on the singles front, Barbara Dickson should be secured a lasting place in the album chart and on stage.
LONDON PALLADIUM - 2 APRIL, 1978
Melody Maker - 1978
Barbara Dickson is turning into a songwriter of the very first quality. Ever since she broke out of the folk circuit and had a hit single with 'Answer Me', it's seemed as if she's been searching for more material strong enough for that superb voice, and judging by her show at the London Palladium on Sunday, she need look no further than the scribbled notes on her home piano for exactly the right stuff.
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.
DAVENPORT THEATRE, STOCKPORT - 11 MAY, 1984
Manchester Evening News - 1984
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.
GLASGOW THEATRE ROYAL - 27 October, 1988
Glasgow Herald - 1988
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.
CAFE ROYAL, LONDON - DECEMBER 1993
The Times - 1993
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 24th.
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.
PHILHARMONIC HALL, LIVERPOOL - 26 FEBRUARY, 2007
Liverpool Echo - 2007
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.
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.
UNION CHAPEL, LONDON - 11 FEBRUARY, 2017
The Times - 2017 ★★★★☆
On a cheerless winter night, a draughty pew in the balcony is a less than enticing prospect. It says a lot for Barbara Dickson’s personality that the evening ends in the warm-hearted spirit of a revivalist meeting.
The Scottish singer-songwriter may not be the most fashionable name around; you sometimes get the impression that folk purists have never forgiven her for taking that regular guest spot on The Two Ronnies. Yet she has amassed an individual repertoire since then, embracing thoughtful musical theatre as well as Dylan classics — Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right made a seductive appearance here — and the traditional ballads she learnt on the club circuit.
More to the point, with her 70th birthday a matter of months away, her voice remains in remarkably good shape. A little darker, perhaps, but every bit as haunting. To be honest, I had forgotten quite how distinctive a signature she has. You hear nothing grandiose or melodramatic in her delivery; she is content to let lyrics speak for themselves.
The programme contained barely a substandard number. Troy Donockley supplied zesty electric guitar solos, doubled on the Uileann pipes and added string-like flourishes on a digital wind instrument. The keyboard player Nick Holland, the bassist Brad Lang and the drummer Russell Field completed a sure-footed line-up.
Dickson, switching between acoustic guitar and keyboards, was an unassuming presence, seemingly surprised that audiences still want to hear a pop hit as elegantly crafted as Answer Me. The applause was louder still for the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice ballad Another Suitcase in Another Hall, and she returned to her roots on the glorious MacCrimmon’s Lament.