If Katarina Witt and Idina Menzel happened to have some kind of secret love child, it would look somewhat like Laura Pausini. It wouldn’t sound like Laura Pausini because the only person who sounds like Laura Pausini is Laura Pausini. But anyway, I digress.
A little over a decade ago, as a wide eyed bright young thing I hauled an enormous suitcase full of my life off to small town France for what my alma mater lovingly referred to as an ‘Integrated Year Abroad’ (more generally known as the ‘IYA’ or ‘third year’ or simply ‘that year I wrote a blinding dissertation, got a first for it and it didn’t count’). Whichever way we look at it, I spent several months in small town France blagging my way through teaching English to a bunch of somewhat unco-operative teenagers. Any pretence I’d had of wanting to teach as a career up to that point was well and truly blown out of the water in that period of my life as I reached the (probably for the best) conclusion that I was not destined for this vocation. Anyway, I digress again.
One of the (many) things I did on my IYA (that did not involve flinging myself down a mountain learning to ski or twisting myself into yoga positions I struggled to manage ten years ago and certainly couldn’t do now) was to expand my musical horizons. I already knew some French artists courtesy of my penfriend/school exchange partner – Renaud, Jean-Jacques Goldman, Téléphone, Noir Désir – but I made it my quest to further this knowledge returning with albums by artists such as Lara Fabien, Lianne Foly, Dionysus and Indochine.
One album I sadly only ever owned on minidisc (coo!) which was a compilation of songs released to coincide with some music awards which I’d copied off my then flatmate. It was a cracking good album featuring, amongst other things, Ronan Keating’s attempts to crack the French market. But there was a cracking good song on there which wasn’t French, it wasn’t English either. It was in Italian by an artist named Laura Pausini. The song? E ritorna da te. It didn’t matter that this wasn’t a language I understood, hers was a voice that made me stop and listen.
I’ve always been attracted to strong female voices – Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Elkie Brooks, Ruthie Henshall, Pink – the ones that can tell a hundred stories and emotions in one note. I mentally added Laura to the list and then sort of forgot. Somewhere along the way from my now housemate I wound up with an album of Laura’s music, lost it when my old laptop fried and never got round to reborrowing it.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, last night Laura Pausini played the Royal Albert Hall and it was incredible. I went in with no preconceptions, no real notion of what to expect (other than I’d quite like her to sing E ritorna da te, which she did and it was sublime). That didn’t matter as soon as we arrived we found ourselves caught up on a wave of ‘Laura love’ from the rest of the audience. A little Wiki-ing last night explains the wide variety of flags swathed across the audience as she’s recorded in various romance languages.
It didn’t matter that my Italian learning stalled halfway through my first year at university and I didn’t understand a word of what she was singing. I was watching a woman whose voice tells the story, whose emotions are etched on her face because she’s feeling everything she’s singing. And she really knows how to work an audience to the point that you can’t help but get caught up and swept along with her. She swung her way through a few genres not staying pigeonholed in one area for more than a few songs. And in between she talked, switching between Italian, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese effortlessly; thanking everybody, being overwhelmed and overexcited by playing the Albert Hall, vaguely referencing her career. I could’ve watched all night.
Instead I’m spending large parts of today just wanting to burst into E ritorno da te but am thwarted by only knowing about four disjointed lines from the song. I should probably just tell you all to go and get Laura Pausini in your ears RIGHT NOW.