Somerset House was discreetly lit in the background. Antique red lamps and sumptuous curtains gave the stage an intimate atmosphere more reminiscent of a Soho cellar jazz bar than a large, outdoor concert. Above the din of the crowd came that unmistakeable piano riff. Haunting, tortured, and full of despair, it perfectly set, and still sets, the scene not only for Back to Black, but Amy Winehouse’s life as well. Then came that voice. Deep and powerful but with the ability to rise and soar, full of emotion, there wasn’t a soul in the audience who didn’t feel it resonate through every sinew of their body.
The dark themes of Back to Black, lost love, betrayal and depression, were not only sung, but also acted out in her voice. Every line was hit with absolute perfection, with perfect pitch and perfect emotion. “And I tread a troubled track, my odds are stacked” left hanging in the air, only to be dropped suddenly and picked up again in an instant by the next marauding line – “I go back to black”. She strutted confidently across the stage, a genius at the height of her power. The backing band was excellent. Every beat hit to perfection, keeping the rhythm flowing, and the audience captivated.
They remained captivated, and still are. Winehouse amazed us not only through her fantastic music and startling performances, but also through her anarchic life. A saga that ultimately ended in tragedy. Throughout the talking mice, the blood soaked pumps, and the slurred rambling gigs, we watched. All the while knowing the end. Were the drink, drugs and self-destructive behaviour down to a tortured soul? Was it a symptom of genius? Or was it merely a hedonistic spirit? The kind that comes with being one of your generations greatest artists, set free from the rigours of the normal, mundane world. For those of us that never met her we shall never know. But one thing is for sure. Whatever it was within her that inspired these fantastic songs, such as Back to Black, it was no doubt this that ultimately led to her sad, untimely demise.