January 25, 2017
The Islington, London
“I like to present my shows like a journey. I hope you all enjoy this journey together”
Cutting straight to the chase; this was a serious contender for gig of the year and it was only January. Even familiarity with Joana Serrat’s exquisite album Cross The Verge wasn’t quite preparation enough for what was to come.
Lonely Heart Reverb, which also opens the album, was simply breathtaking. It set the tone for a modest masterclass in what is possible simply with ethereal vocals, guitar and sensitive reverb.
Somehow it didn’t matter that there was no pedal steel guitar, despite its ubiquity on the album. Nor that guest vocalists Neil Halstead and Ryan Boldt were absent, despite their centrality to Cloudy Heart and Black Lake on record. Live, the subtle simplicity of the songs was sublime.
Take, for example, Tug Of War. On the album it is upbeat and rich, standing out as likely to be a live favourite. And it was, but in an intriguingly different way. It was slower, almost waltz-like, when played in The Islington’s back room.
Serrat acknowledged “I don’t speak much when I play but I hope you’re having a good time,” and that was clearly the case. The audience sat on the floor deep in concentration, really listening to Serrat’s songs both old and new, as she performed her lush set surrounded by red velvet and enveloping reverb.
¡Muy bien, Joana!
Check out my review of Joana Serrat’s album, Cross The Verge, here.
“West Hendon, the salubrious end of London. I don’t live there anymore – can’t afford it!”
StevieRay Latham’s introspective set, punctuated by samples, suited the den-like atmosphere of The Islington’s back room.
As the early doors crowd lined the walls, Latham accompanied the spoken word intros and outros with controlled cacophony on the guitar.
His delivery was distinctive, enunciating each word over lo-fi, discordant indie tunes like Late Night Conversations, House On A Corner and Concubine.
StevieRay Latham’s album Winter in London is out now.
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