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Nice voice, shame about the soundBy SIMON SWEETMAN - The Dominion Post
Duffy won a stack of awards and racked up impressive sales for her debut album, Rockferry, released last year on the back of Amy Winehouse-related hype.
But it was clear on a first listen that Duffy has her own sound; a little bit of Dusty Springfield and Motown with the sass of infectious pop music.
There is a hint of Swinging London in her look and she switches gears effortlessly between funky pop singles (Mercy) and broken-hearted balladry (Warwick Avenue).
On stage she is a pocket rocket. It's hard to believe that huge voice is held somewhere in that tiny frame. And with just one album to push, huge efforts had been made to create a show; light banter between songs, backing vocalists that matched Duffy's look (imagine the Austin Powers Fembots) and an outfit that was long enough to cover the essentials but short enough to keep most people's attention.
Several tunes were rearranged slightly for live performance, a nice touch, meaning the songs were not performed as replicas; sometimes a near-recited chorus would announce the next piece and there were B-sides too (Stop, Breaking My Own Heart).
Sadly, the sound mix was atrocious. There were overloads of bass issuing cracks and pops from the rhythm section; Duffy's voice was occasionally forced in to a savage bleat; and the backing vocalists were buried, sounding thin and reedy. This all culminated in what should have been one of the songs of the night, Stepping Stone, sounding like an embarrassing mess - not the fault of the band.
They played on, professionals to the end and, in all likelihood, were probably saved the crude sound that the audience had to endure.
The TSB Arena has struggled on for years with inferior sound and, in the case of undersold shows like Duffy's (half full at best), it would have been preferable to hear a decent sound system in a smaller venue like the criminally underused Town Hall.
Duffy had everyone standing immediately for Mercy though, so the power of the performance transcended the blunt tools used to assist.