Katherine Jenkins at The O2 on the 15th of December 2012
Releasing a Christmas album is all the rage now—just ask Bieber, Rod Stewart, or the King of Christmas, Michael Buble. It seems there’s a vacancy for the queen—a crown Katherine Jenkins is clawing at. She released ‘This Is Christmas’ in October, a collection of classic carols and hymns sung in her trademark sickly-sweet mezzo soprano range. The live outing of the collection is taking over the O2 tonight, and it’s more festive than a turkey bathing in mulled wine.
Queen of Christmas isn’t the only crown Jenkins is going for. She’s already the princess of classical music, bringing the genre to the masses with an injection of pop and a pleasing aesthetic that can’t hurt. She has her very own choir, orchestra, extensive full-length gown collection, castle—probably.
Back-lit by a frosty full moon and grasping a glittering microphone, Jenkins skis into a set full of Christmas favourites—the perfect portion of parmesan sprinkled on your classy operatic affair. With wedding-like gowns, debs dresses, flowing blonde locks and barbie veneers, Jenkins is truly the poster-girl for classical music. But bringing a poster-perfect image to 3D is always going to be difficult. The act is there, in all its Oscar-winning glory, but are we buying it? Well, yes, most of the crowd are.
Jenkins daintily sways from side to side, flashing the audience with that white grin as the orchestra plays the opening to Deck The Halls. The rushed rendition squeezes itself out of her in an almost apologetic matter, often feeling like she’s a wound up singing doll, set to run in a mechanical fashion. A slight shrill tone from her microphone is disappointing, considering the masterful production that goes into her recorded music.
This just sets the tone for an extremely formal and well-produced Christmas carolling session. Despite being almost made for her, Jenkins steps aside too often during Angels We Have Heard On High in order to allow the choir to shine. It’s a bit bizarre, especially as she struggles a bit to keep up—her vocal doesn’t seem as effortless as the usual delivery.
But there’s hope yet. The Late Late show even gets a mention as she introduces Away in a Manger as one of her favourites. The indulgent arrangement slightly detracts from the atmosphere of the song as Jenkins sits down, deflated. It’s like hearing it at mass, on Christmas morning, when you’re dying to get back to your presents. Sure, it’s grand, but hurry it up a bit.
In terms of crowd interaction, all is taken to extremes. ‘Question time’ sees Katherine reading at a few cards and pieces of paper that the audience have left for her during the first half. They mostly include family shout-outs and mushy advice to a 15-year-old singer, with Jenkins suspiciously knowing exactly where to look for her. Thanks for inspiration etc, happy birthdays, I traveled so far, will you marry me/go to dinner with me—the usual cliches. ‘Sing the Welsh national anthem’—delivered with the calm confidence of someone who had just been dying to crack that joke—she’d just been determined to sing it.
There’s nothing here to disprove Jenkins as a talented singer, it’s the ingenuity that irks—but her voice just dares you to verbalise it. As Cheryl Cole is to pop, Jenkins is to opera. That’s just hard to argue with, especially considering the adoring audience.
A particularly provocative rendition of Santa Baby is done with a Marilyn Monroe-esque demeanor, making it hard to deny that Jenkins uses her sexuality to utmost advantage. But you have to hand it to her, she does it well. Not the slightest bit classical, it’s irrelevant, as her voice thrives under less pressure than the bigger numbers pile upon her.
On tour with her is American tenor, Nathan Pacheco. He provides much appreciated intervals as Jenkins changes from gown to gown-er. A toned-down version of Ave Maria is an utter treat, while a sophisticated introduction to O Holy Night immediately adorns the o2 in an occasion-fitting tuxedo. Of course, Jenkins arrives at this stage, hoisting a large red train after her, popping against her backing circus. It’s perfectly good, if not lulling a bit. Pacheco’s velvety vocal is chocolatey smooth when low, but bold and powerful when hitting the high notes. Against him, Jenkins is seen to warble, the contrast is strange and slightly theatrical. As he walks off, you kinda want him to stay and Jenkins to throw on another sparkly dress backstage.
But she again, reigns freely on the stage. A gracious intake of applause is well convinced, but a finale of Time to Say Goodbye in the darkness spells forgiveness. The crowd sing along, and finally we’re shown why Jenkins was plucked from the sea of those similar to her. That voice just stands out—somehow.
The traditional roses are presented, the prom queen wins again, time to go. But not before she leads the O2 in a festive chorus of We Wish You a Merry Christmas, sprinkling the holiday spirit on the audience like snow from a shaken tree. Before her exit, she throws her flowers to an audience member. Sure, she’s the precocious princess, but her willingness to share it around makes her the queen.
Katherine Jenkins Photo Gallery
Photos: Abraham Tarrush