Elizabeth II enjoyed the Kentucky Derby, but the real queen of England was at the Electric Factory on Saturday night.
Her name is Amy Winehouse, and she is nothing short of a nouveau soul sensation. Her breakthrough album, Back To Black, with its clever postmodern amalgam of '60s soul, Motown and Spectorian girl groups, is currently blowing up in all formats.
Before the show, the sold-out crowd at the Electric Factory just kept their fingers crossed that Winehouse would show - Fleet Street, in its inimitable tradition of creating media icons and then destroying them, currently is painting Winehouse as boozy and unstable - but she not only showed up, she showed plenty.
Dressed in skimpy daisy dukes, a flimsy white tank top, tattoos and a magnificent, towering cascade of hair arranged in a style not seen since the Shangri-Las sang "Leader Of The Pack."
Like her music, Winehouse cuts a striking but elusive profile, petite but streetwise, retro yet thoroughly modern, with her exotic features she could pass for black or white, Arab or Asian. All of which seemed to be represented in the Factory crowd, which, unprompted, joined the star in a joyful sing-along of the unprintable rhetorical question that opened "Me & Mr. Jones," her rendition of the Billy Paul hit.
In short, this was a party.
Winehouse, who spoke in a semi-intelligible Cockney mumble between songs, made light of her reputation as an unrepentant juicer, joking that she got into trouble at sound check for breaking in to the upstairs bar and liberating a bottle of tequila.
She was backed by an impeccable 10-piece band, including a horn section and two suave, caramel-skinned gentlemen in dapper three-button suits singing backup and shimmying Motown-style.
Winehouse was in fine voice, her phrasing was spot-on and the range and control she demonstrates on record - from black-leather belting to blue-velvet crooning - was undiminished.
My only complaint is that she rushed her phrasing through "Rehab," her breakthrough hit. She seemed to fully inhabit every other song as if she lived them, but "Rehab" sounded a little vacant - like an old house she moved out of a long time ago.