Written by Hannah Dunleavy


Sound the sirens

It’s Thursday, so let’s all watch some classic performances by women, says Hannah Dunleavy. Because why the fuck not.

Tracy Chapman: better things to sing than Happy Birthday.

Tracy Chapman: better things to sing than Happy Birthday.

Big Brother and the Holding Company – Ball & Chain
Monterey Pop Festival, 1967

Two 60s powerhouses here for you to enjoy. First up, on the stage, Janis Joplin being, quite simply, spectacular. Secondly, in the audience, ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot, caught on camera in open-mouthed amazement at what she was witnessing. As should we all be.

Dolly Parton – Jolene
Glastonbury Festival, 2014

Everything about Dolly at Glastonbury was ridiculously fun, but this stands out. Despite showing she was perfectly capable of belting out a tune and despite literal Dollymania breaking out all over, she keeps it simple. And a little bit sad. Which is exactly what Jolene is. What a pro.

Tracy Chapman – Fast Car
Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute Concert, Wembley, 1988

Chapman sang Fast Car on her second visit to the stage, having been asked to plug a gap resulting from a backstage to-do about Stevie Wonder’s lost kit. It might sound like a great opportunity, but the crowd wants Wonder and makes a ferocious amount of noise, long after she starts playing, There’s also a soundcheck going on in the background.

But Chapman is made of stronger stuff. She had after all, already given the 72,000-strong crowd an a capella number on domestic violence. By the time she finishes, about four and half minutes later, she’s got the whole place in the palm of her hand. And sells almost two million albums in the next fortnight. Yep, she was THAT good.

Beyoncé – Crazy in Love
2014 Super Bowl

Just bonkers. Absolutely bonkers. You’ve got to hand it to Beyoncé, there’s no fucking around – except all that fucking around at the start – she gets straight to it. She’s got 15 minutes, so it’s straight in with Crazy in Love, garment flinging, key changing and firework guitars. You heard me: firework guitars.
[Ed note: for some reason, the only decent quality video available is this one, with handy subtitles/Spanish lesson] 

PJ Harvey – Sheela Na Gig
Reading Festival, 1992

There are dozens and dozens of top drawer Polly Harvey performances on the internet. I like this one because it established her attitude to performing early – turn up, be excellent, go home. What a fricking star.

Aretha Franklin – (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
Conertgebouw, Amsterdam, 1968

So completely awe-inspiring that it doesn’t even matter if you like what’s she singing. What’s so amazing about this show is that it’s clearly hotter than Satan’s armpit in there; sweat is literally pouring off Franklin and yet she floats through it all like a swan. With the best set of pipes ever.

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings – Time (The Revelator)
Cambridge Folk Festival, 2004

OK, she might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Welch took the roof (?) off the country’s biggest folk festival, with a mix of, well, why not see for yourself? Spoiler alert: contains full-on acoustic guitar solo.

Tori Amos – Cornflake Girl
Madison Square Garden, New York, 1997

Recorded to raise awareness and cash for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (never change Ms Amos, never change), it’s a terrific example of the politics and mad skills of one incredible singer. She’s also pretty cracking on the piano. Watch it.

Patti Smith Free Money
Konserthuset, Stockholm, 1976

Patti fucking Smith. That is all.


To be continued… Feel free to chuck us a tweet with any suggestions: @StandardIssueUK

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Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.