Back in the summer of 2007, just days after her smash album Back to Black was certified gold and critics began comparing her to Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington, 23-year-old Amy Winehouse was the headline attraction on the premiere episode of MTV’s then-new live music show, 45th at Night. Backed by the Dap-Kings and pairing with Mos Def for a sizzling rendition of “Love is a Losing Game,” Winehouse was masterful, performing hit songs like “Rehab,” “Back to Black,” “Me & Mr. Jones,” and “You Know I’m No Good.”
Tomorrow at 6:30 p.m., MTV will re-air the “rarely-seen set” (except on YouTube) as a musical celebration of the singer, who died tragically on Saturday. Take a peek at MTV’s promotional clip.
Winehouse was a mesmerizing performer, slinky and playful, her bend-but-don’t-break voice both powerful and elastic, and her 45th at Night performance is a refreshing reminder of her brilliance after three days of morbid details. Yet the sight of her mastering her hit songs — even in her prime — is tinted with sadness since those songs are so personal to her. As a result, her MTV performance is both magical and tragic to watch. It can’t help but remind you of her prodigious talent and beauty and her struggle with addiction that many assume led to her demise. It goes without saying that I’ll never be able to enjoy listening to “Rehab” without the accompanying shadow of her death, but this intimate MTV concert at least reminds you of the shining light beneath the blackness.
“Back to Black” still works for me — it’s so triumphant, and I love how it builds. Is there still a Winehouse song that can’t help but make you smile?