The Guide Sunday, 20 March 2005

Petula Clark, Congress Theatre, Eastbourne

by Mike Howard

I am truly, madly and deeply head over heals in love.

The object of my affection is former child star turned international superstar Petula Clark, who has been entertaining us for more than 50 years.

She has recorded more than 1,000 songs and is still going strong in a career which has also included 30 films.

She can still belt out a show-stopper, swing a jazz tune and croon a ballad. This woman, who was brought up around Chichester, has certainly come a long way. I guess I first fell in love with her when Downtown and Donít Sleep In The Subway, Darling hit the charts in the early Sixties.

I have had a thing about strawberry blondes and redheads every since.

And hearing these songs on Tuesday night peeled the intervening years away and took me back to my testosteronefuelled teenage years.

It was as if Petula Clark had never been away as she was the original Ms Dynamite and she looks and sounds just as good now.

She can still swing a great song, most of which were hits before hip-hop, garage and techno where ever dreamed of.

Now she sings a mix of old and new and she is still writing lyrics with a cutting edge, such as an emotional tribute to 9/11 victims called Starting Again.

Backed by an eight-piece band led by her regular musical director Kenny Clayton, she mixed ballads with pop and rock íní roll songs as well as anecdotes from her life and some pretty good piano playing of her own from the shows.

Along with some of her French hits and songs from her international cabaret career, Ms Clark proved how she has paid her dues and bought herself a warm and enchanting place in the heart of Brits everywhere, showeding she has stolen my heart clean away.

And if you won't take my word, three encores and two standing ovations must surely prove the point.