Rebecca Ferguson might not be England’s answer to Aretha Franklin, but she’s just about their version of Fantasia Barrino. Pregnant at seventeen and then again two years later, the now twenty-five-year-old Ferguson first made waves across the pond as the runner-up of the 2010 season of the UK edition of The X-Factor, and hasn’t slowed down since. Tuesday night marked the occasion of the soulful chanteuse’s first-ever New York performance, ahead of the May 29th stateside release of her debut album, Heaven.
And what a performance it was. Looking glam in a modish and scalloped black-and-white sleeveless dress, Ferguson sang five songs off Heaven, in addition to a sizzling cover of Drake and Rihanna‘s “Take Care” (see video below) that brought some Miami heat to the proceedings. Her opening number was the anthemic original “Glitter & Gold,” followed by “Shoulder to Shoulder,” “Take Care,” “Teach Me To Be Loved,” “Nothing’s Real But Love,” and finally “Run Free,” a standout on the album that was equally exuberant in a live setting.
Her band was impressively tight, but the night was all about Ferguson. “Me own showcase!” she beamed, her “I can’t believe it’s happening to me” reality show persona still coloring her stage presence. While album tracks like “Fairytale” and “Diamond to Stone” highlight her voice’s preternatural maturity and ’60s-’70s throwback scratchiness, during Tuesday’s performance Ferguson cast off the long shadow of soul greats past. Her first single, “Nothing’s Real But Love,” sounded far more modern live, though it managed to retain its unearthed Aretha B-side feeling and the Stones-y vibe of the recording. Equally impressive was her rendition of “Shoulder to Shoulder,” a dark ballad of codependency and reciprocal abuse.
Themes of money, love, and freedom flavor Heaven, an album that was entirely co-written by the singer alongside such notable producers as Eg White and Xenomania. If she keeps coming up with songs this consistently good, Ferguson—much like her fellow countrywoman Adele, who famously voted for Ferguson dozens of times to win The X-Factor—is likely to be a presence on these shores for years to come.
[Photo: Getty Images]