Steve Holley is our guest writer this week. Steve’s a music lover who attends a lot of gigs in and around London. His son Max is a singer/songwriter.
Sometimes when I’m looking at gigs I want to go to I check that I’m free on the evening in question and go ahead and book tickets. Last week I managed to book 3 gigs in two days. I tried (unsuccessfully) to sell one set of tickets and then thought I’d attempt to get to them all. This was made possible by one of the gigs starting unusually early and an assumption that a rock band at Roundhouse wouldn’t be on until at least 9.15 pm! So three very different artists in three very different locations with three very different fan bases. These are my thoughts.
I started with Rae Morris at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Blackpool’s Rae Morris released her ‘Unguarded’ album at the beginning of the year but is known for providing searing vocals for Bombay Bicycle Club on ‘Luna’, and Clean Bandit on ‘Up Again’. Having previously supported Bombay Bicycle Club, Tom Odell, and George Ezra, it’s about time Rae Morris started to claim an audience as her own, and over the past 8 months she has been doing this.
She emerges on stage with a fragile humility like Thumbelina, and standing behind her keyboard begins to enthral the largely female audience, who sway with varying speeds to her performance. She is often accompanied by a string quartet playing behind a screen, reflecting Morris’ use of composer Nico Muhly’s work in shaping the sounds on her album. Rae is like a mini Kate Bush – easily moving from ballad to dance hit, to an on-stage duet with Fryars on their collaboration, ‘Cold.’ By the finish the audience were wrapped around her tiny fingers. I saw Rae support Taylor Swift at Hyde Park this year and the overall impression is of an artist becoming more natural on stage and less rehearsed. She easily engages her audience and we can look forward to more material from this rising star.
Friday saw a hectic schedule starting at Koko at one end of Camden High Street to see Rhodes. Hitchin’s David Rhodes played Koko at about this time last year as support to Hozier, and was keen to point out to an enthusiastic crowd that he had “literally dreamed” of headlining at this wonderful venue. Rhodes came to my attention with his debut EP, ‘Raise Your Love’ all the way back at the end of 2013, after I first saw him support Nick Mulvey. He had a busy 2014, supporting acts like London Grammar and Sam Smith, as well as Hozier. I was reacquainted with him at the Barn On The Farm Festival in Gloucestershire, where I was lucky enough to meet this lovely guy,who apparently didn’t pick up a guitar until January 2013, but managed to raise the roof on the main stage there.
Rhodes’ Koko performance was the high point of my three gigs as he effortlessly promoted his debut and recent album, ‘Wishes’, moving through the tracks between telling the audience that the gig was “blowing his mind”, and “amazing”; a feeling that was shared by the mixed age and gender audience who became more and more vocal in their appreciation of his haunting vocals and ethereal electric guitar.
Then it was into a waiting cab that sped us to The Roundhouse to catch the last 45 minutes of Mallory Knox, as they rocked an enthusiastic crowd into running around in circles, punching the air in delight, and climbing upon each other’s shoulders, as this Cambridge quartet ramped up the evening’s volume levels with a catchy and atmospheric sound, that would be equally at home in a stadium. They played a sixteen song set finishing with ‘Lighthouse’, a song that had promoted them to a whole new level of commercial success. Mallory Knox finished their homecoming tour with this huge performance and went down a storm in the City they consider their “second home”.
So three artists, three wonderful venues, two nights and one very happy if slightly tired music fan!