Tuesday night, May 1, Jenn Bostic played a full band set at the beautiful Bush Hall in London’s Sheperds Bush. Making up part of her UK tour, it was officially to launch her new album release ‘Revival’ and the auditorium was filled with a mix of old fans and new followers.
The evening began with three young Country artists, Megan O’Neil, Laura Oakes and Emma Stevens. They sang original material of their own in the round. This is a Country music format and is very popular in Nashville. It involves the artists singing songs one at a time, one after the other, and really is a great way to showcase singers and their material in the best way. All three artists sang beautifully and I’m sure, from the throng of people gathered around the merchandise store at the interval, they garnered many new fans. It really was the perfect way to start the event and illustrated how passionate Jenn is about supporting new talent.
Jenn burst on to the stage with ‘Wrong Thing’, the album opener and perfect way to make the crowd take notice. It’s a high powered bluesy track and ensured that Jenn had everyone’s full attention from the moment she started. Looking stunning in red, it was immediately evident that Jenn wanted to make this a night to remember, not only for the audience but for herself. She made no secret of the fact that she has always wanted to play Bush Hall, a venue that has seen its fair share of incredible talent before the evening. The bar was high and Jenn was not going to disappoint.
Bush Hall was originally an Edwardian dancehall dating back to 1904 and was one of a trio of dancehalls built by a publisher for each of his three daughters. Bush Hall has played host to everyone from The Who to Adele, as well as being a snooker and social club, before becoming a musical venue again in 2001. It’s the only one of the dancehalls to survive and while it hosts music of this quality it will continue to do so. Its interior is almost chapel-like with its ornate decorations and the superb acoustics were perfect for the music that Jenn performed.
Jenn played a mix of old music and new, ranging from the inspirational ‘Follow Your Own Star’ (co-written with the excellent Sarah Darling) to the pop release and reflection of ‘Hollywood’, from the lovely ‘Haunting Me’ to the inspiration of ‘Lamp’. She even found time to cover Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Love Me Like a Man’ and ‘I Cant Make You Love Me’, in an outstanding solo set. The latter was so powerful that it really did bring a tear to the eye, but nowhere near to the raw emotion of ‘Jealous of the Angels’, performed as part of her encore, an incredibly personal song written about losing her father and originally meant to be one sung just for the family, but then performed in a moment of divine intervention at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. This led to it becoming a breakout song for her in this country when it was picked up by BBC Radio 2.
Jenn’s father had been a huge fan and must have been willing her on as he looked down. When she sang this song the raw emotion in her voice was impossible to ignore. I lost my own father almost four years ago and the lyrics powerfully resonate, as I’m sure they do for anyone who has suffered that heartbreaking level of loss. Jenn beautifully mixed this song seamlessly with a rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’, in which she encouraged the audience to join, and I’m sure I was not alone in the feeling of communion that seemed to hold everyone young and old; before a round of applause there was a second you could have heard a pin drop!
In Jenn’s solo set she also performed ‘If You See Him’, a song from her last album, which she mixed into Sia’s ‘Chandelier’. This felt, for me, like a really important moment as the journey from an old song into a really powerful performance of this well know pop song was illustrative of Jenn’s breaking free of the chains of genre. Her confidence in the delivery of ‘Chandelier’ was breathtaking as she used every facet of her versatile vocals to prove that from here on in she refuses to be pigeonholed.
This was a moment when Jenn Bostic seemed to say this is the music I’ve always wanted to perform and I won’t be boxed in by convention or expectation. Her new album screams independence from former restraint, and the songs from it have such a powerful message of self empowerment and positivity that the performance felt almost akin to something far more motivational, far more emotional than just a gig. Despite this not being Jenn’s first album, it almost felt like a regenerative rebirth of an outstanding talent.
Of course, Jenn finished her main set with a performance of title track ‘Revival’, in which she was joined by her trio of support acts as well as her superb vocal support and full band in a rousing rendition.It was a great way to showcase the gospel quality of the song and the whole crowd was carried along on a wave of euphoria.
As I left the venue a complete stranger summed it all up perfectly, he said to me: “I can’t remember a gig when I felt so involved!” and I think he hit the nail on the head. If you get the chance to see Jenn Bostic live, grab the opportunity with both hands. You will not be disappointed and it may very well change the way you look at life!