FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: LIVE AFTER COVID
After 10 days or so locked away with Covid, it was nice to see a single red line on the LFT so that I was allowed out to attend successive nights of live music on Wednesday and Thursday. Time being somewhat at a premium this week, I won’t be able to do justice to detailed reviews of said shows nor bring you quite the fully oven ready diet of new music readers might be getting accustomed to. There, I said I would never use the phrase ‘oven ready’ and I just have [That’s twice now – Ed]. A further diversion, though a thoroughly enjoyable one, was a rehearsal this morning with my old bandmates from PlanB (not that one) in readiness for a gig at our local street party on 4 June.
Still, I will bring you “New Light” which happens to be the new single from Alex Hall who is very much the glue that keeps today’s Fifty3 Fridays from possibly falling apart. I first wrote about Alex in July 2020 having been won over by The Beach Boys vibes of his AFC Bournemouth-referencing song “I Won’t Bow Out”. He has gone from strength to strength with subsequent releases and the lads are even back in the Premier League two years on. Alex Hall topped Wednesday night’s bill at that splendid shrine of musique nouvelle, The Bedford in downtown Balham with excellent support from Florie Namir and Rupert Caney.
London singer-songwriter and street performer Rupert Caney opened Wednesday’s show and impressed from the off with his easy on the ear original songs which he seems to deliver effortlessly. Such craftmanship though is clearly the fruits of regular busking on London’s Southbank. Songs like “Take My Chances” and “4AM” have immediacy and mainstream appeal and a standout was his single from last year, the reflective and beautifully stated “January Feels”. You can catch Rupert’s whole set on the link further down the article but meanwhile I have no hesitation in reprising his live street version of that song here.
Rupert was followed by Tel Aviv-born Florie Namir whose American jazz vocal stylings melded with classic pop influences have already made her a favourite among the Fresh On The Net community. It was great to see FOTN moderator Neil March along with fellow musicians Paul Cook and Luke Moore in the audience to support tonight’s artistes. Accompanying herself on piano, Florie brings a brightness and elan to her music that make it a sheer delight. Opening with the lead song “Far, Far Away” from her recent EP, I Wanna Be in Love with You, you were transported to a place of positive expectation: “Tomorrow I’m starting the rest of my life.” There is such a fluidity and musicality to her work which is matched by excellent storytelling. The song about her childhood memories sung in Hebrew but prefaced by a joyous explanation was a true highlight of a lovely set.
Alex Hall then closed an evening of contrasting yet harmonious styles with his now signature one-man band set which sees him juggling live vocals and instrumentation alongside loops, backing tracks and effects, tonight unified by big screen projections. It is a physically demanding set which at one point sees him dashing across the stage mid-song from the house keyboard to his main rig and reaching for the trumpet to lay down a short break in another. Highlights came thick and fast but a nostalgic new song “The Pear Tree” greatly impressed as did his latest single “New Light”, which marks a full stop at the end of a long-term relationship referenced in a series of his more recent songs. Blessed with lush reverbs, retro synths and big percussive sounds, it shows Alex has taken new steps along the road to a wider recognition of his immense talent for songcraft and performance.
Photos of Alex Hall, Florie Namir and Rupert Caney at The Bedford by Kevin England
You can watch The Bedford show here in its entirety on The Bedford's Facebook Page. It should hopefully be added to the venue's YouTube page shortly too.
And so to Thursday night which saw three recent Glastonbury Festival confirmees together in a kind of pre-Green Futures celebratory night at the Bread and Roses pub in Clapham. First up was British-Spanish songstress Nadia Sheikh who will be appearing at the Festival with her band but tonight was playing a solo set, alternating between acoustic guitar and keyboard. She is a confident performer with a characterful, soulful twist to her voice, soft one moment yet able to rachet up the power at ease. Nadia is equally adept at setting up vocal and guitar loops and soon commanded an initially noisy room with her presence and strong suit of songs. Tonight’s included several unreleased tracks amid the familiar and a stand out for me was her sheer lyricism on the emotive "The Wire", shown below as a studio live recording.
Following Nadia’s set, our old friend Alex Hall took the stage with a slightly different set of songs to the previous evening’s selection with a welcome addition in the shape of the delightfully nostalgic and whimsical “Pterodactyl”, replete with a splendid trumpet solo. Alex will undoubtedly wow them at Glastonbury in June.
Photos of Nadia Sheikh and Andrew Maxwell Morris at Bread and Roses by Joseph Hitchcock
While Nadia and Alex will be making their Glastonbury debuts this June, topping tonight’s Bread and Roses fare was festival regular, Andrew Maxwell Morris and his ace band featuring guitar, bass, keys and drums. A veteran of around ten Glastonburys to date, I have frequently remarked in reviews that this passionate and honest singer-songwriter would easily translate to one of the festival’s bigger stages. Andrew confessed that he hadn’t played live for well over two years but tonight’s set scarcely showed any rustiness. The band was tight and precise in its execution of three bright new songs bookended by cuts from Andrew’s earlier albums, from the earnest solo opener, “Dust”, to the heady Americana of the closing song, “Lost My Soul”, which has all the passion, immediacy and energy of his best work. I’ll leave you with the absorbing “Well Tread Roads”, a well-chosen homage to the life of a musician.
Back to last week’s Fifty3 Fridays now. Thank you to all those (Sid & Doris Rocker) who wrote in to say how much they loved hearing that weird and wonderful instrument the theremin featured in last week’s column and was I serious about the musical saw making a comeback. I am afraid this was something of a smokescreen but it does give me the excuse to dust off “Endlessly” by the wonderful Mercury Rev off one of the finest albums ever recorded, Deserter’s Songs. There you have it; probably my favourite song featuring a musical saw which imparts a kind of siren romantic shiver to the song in perfect accord with the melancholy of the lyrics. "And of all the stars above only one reminds her of leaving you again, endlessly."
Finally, from all the stars above to “A Million Other Suns”. We first met up with the dream pop duo of Chloe Little and James Taylor aka Wings of Desire in February via the thoughtful musings of the single, “Perfect World”. A few weeks later the pair made it through to the longlist of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition 2022 with the euphoric “Choose A Life”. The duo’s latest release keeps up the good work and makes a fine closer to today’s action.
I STAND WITH UKRAINE