A TASTE OF PARADISIA AT LONDON'S OMEARA
It’s been quite a time for London trio, Paradisia. The year so far had witnessed a highly impressive debut album release and appearances at the iconic Isle of Wight festival, while July sees the band sharing a stage with headliners The Killers in London’s Hyde Park and supporting James at Kew Gardens. As the first to review the May 2016 debut concert by Paradisia, it seemed fitting to return to see how the group had honed its live offering at its latest London show, some thirteen months later. It was not to disappoint.
Omeara is a relatively new live music venue, having opened last October under the helm of Mumford & Sons’ Keyboardist, Ben Lovett. Nestled between bars and exhibition spaces, the gig room itself is quite extraordinary; a cavernous tunnel-shaped space leading to a small raised stage with strong back lights. Indeed, it’s quite the shabby chic palace with wall to ceiling distressed surfaces, carvings and features. The room is stepped giving those at the back some sort of chance of seeing the stage. We were near the front, though it’s uncanny how two six-feet plus gents always come and stand in front of you, just as the main act takes the stage.
Photo by Ruth Geraghty
As the room quickly filled with Paradisia fans, friends and family, the bit of air-con was at least welcome on the city’s hottest summer evening so far. On stage the three band members - Sophie-Rose (vocals), Kristy (vocals, keyboard) and Anna (harp, backing vocal) – were joined by guitar, bass and drums. The large crowd, suddenly hushed, greeted the opening song “Tell Me” with reverence, befitting its hymn-like quality opening with three voices in perfect a cappella harmony. It was followed by three faster numbers from the album with Sophie-Rose taking the lead vocal and the guitar and rhythm section adding depth to the sound, yet never dominating. It was good to see that the lead singer still worked those expressive hands of hers as she sang.
A brief false start to “Her” hardly put the band off its stride and was celebrated with smiles all round rather than recriminations. Introducing “Idea Of You”, Sophie-Rose confessed “We were so worried about this show and thought no one would come”. Any angst was of course redundant as the audience lapped up this uptempo fantasy of fancying a complete stranger. The girls’ rhythmic unison head turns to the left were especially lovable. Kristy then took over lead vocal duties for “Poison” for which the band were joined by support act Rothwell (whose earlier set we had sadly missed). Described elsewhere as a “young Adele”, this link will give you an idea of Ella Rothwell’s vocal prowess.
The R&B flavoured “Just Words” with Kristy again leading and Sophie-Rose switching to keyboard got the best response on the night so far, demonstrating its mainstream hit potential. A cover of Beyoncé’s “Pray You Catch Me” showcased the front three vocalists until a flurry of harp notes from Anna signalled a segue to Paradisia’s stripped-back version of Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark” with the full band returning to add subtle textures. The reaction this time was huge. This song which, with deference to the likes of X-Factor judge Louis Walsh, the band has really made their own seemed to propel Paradisia to even higher ground. The harmonies in “Something Beautiful”, dedicated to Kristy’s mother who was in tonight’s audience and indeed to all mothers, were exceptional.
By the end of the evening, Paradisia would have played the entire album. The final three songs and the encore showed how skilfully the band has amplified its core studio sound into a live extravaganza, combining passion and intensity in its delivery with genuine likeability. The stunning “Song For You” with its impassioned vocals duelling with ringing harp and guitar figures became truly anthemic live while Paradisia’s song of female empowerment, “Warpaint”, took on added weight as Sophie-Rose with great sensitivity dedicated it to the victims of the London Bridge terrorist outrage and the tower block fire which itself took so many lives in the last 24 hours.
Before ending the night with an encore in the shape of “Dreamer”, fittingly the final song on the album, Sophie-Rose introduced the full band - Johnny on guitar, Louise on drums, James on bass (btw Paradisia only do first names!) The backing musicians complemented the front three perfectly and with a truly great sound mix it was one of the few nights that you could hear every instrument cutting through. Anna’s harp was especially notable; it adds such individuality and colour to Paradisia’s music, weaving in and out of the songs quite magically. “Dreamer” is not just the final song on the record; it’s the last song they wrote together and right now their favourite song. After such highs during the set, you could scarcely believe it can get better but it just does.