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FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: LIVE AT THE BEDFORD


February 1st was of course the day before Groundhog Day – now, where did I read that before? I have Sid & Doris Rocker of Neasden to thank for the observation that the good folk of Gobblers Knob might be Punxsutawney Phil loyalists but their beloved groundhog is not the only weather prognosticator worthy of mention. The pair went on to cite General Beauregard Lee (Jackson, Georgia), Shubenacadie Sam (Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia), Buckeye Chuck (Marion, Ohio) and Wiarton Willie (Wiarton, Canada) as further examples before their phone battery died. 


One paragraph though is quite enough for prophetic groundhogs as we have a live show to review and anyone who didn’t read last week’s column will not have a clue about groundhogs in any case. So, on with the music. Last Thursday (1 Feb) found me at a favourite music venue of mine, The Bedford in downtown Balham where I had the pleasure of curating an evening with three brilliant and diverse talents: The Trusted, Retropxssy and Francesca Guerra. To add to the challenge, I was recovering from day surgery two days before and had the inconvenience of regular hiccups – trigged by the anaesthetic – and a sore bum to boot! Or not literally to boot – actually, a bad idea.


All photos from The Bedford by Sigita Safronova


First up was London-based Italian singer-songwriter Francesca Guerra appearing with her band comprising Nischal Chaubey on guitar, Lilah on keys and drummer Thomas Dunk. She bravely opened her set with the overture-like “Disconnected (Intro)” but quickly into it revealed a vocal style that demanded attention, capable of soaring crescendos and hushed moments. The more conventional ballad “Seasons” then eased her into a progressively confident and varied set. “Bad Day” and “Flight Risk” – the latter due for release as a single on 15 March - both hit the mark for melody and dynamics. Francesca’s lyrics are immediately accessible, never more so than on “Love is Overrated” which is the kind of anthemic song that does exactly what it says on the can and was a bit hit with tonight’s crowd.

That song dovetailed neatly with a sympathetic cover of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” with Francesca strapping on an acoustic guitar and vocally delivering soft verses and powerhouse choruses. Nischal, who had been prominent throughout the evening on guitar, delivered a particularly tasty solo here. For her final two songs, the reflective “Golden Days” and a dynamic “Start Over”, Francesca demonstrated how she has melded her influences from Italian Pop and British Indie to create a sound that is authentically her own which will help her and her band stand out in a crowded market. She has a winning personality and the original songs to impress. While all of tonight’s songs are works in progress, I can at least share a demo of “Seasons” here and a favourite of mine from her recorded works, “Pathetic” which shows a different aspect of Francesca Guerra. Of course, you can watch the whole live set at the bottom of the page too.



Next, Retropxssy. Words alone hardly do justice to her live show. With Retropxssy you get the full package – a heady mix of challenging words, adventurous music and beats, dance, movement, theatre, the works from an artiste who can look scary yet equally vulnerable. Seeing her perform is an immersive experience. Though with stylistic differences, Christine and The Queens is the closest analogy I can think of in that dramatic performance is an integral part of the experience, as vital as the words and music. With her friend, producer and rapper JoeJas as her wingman, helping her run the backing tracks just off stage, Eleanor aka Retropxssy takes you on a joyride through 14 episodic songs cojoined with commentary and physical action, challenging the experiences, highs and anxieties of womanhood. Her vintage pink stage dress adorned with classic US motor racing logos, skate shoes and knee bandage add mixed messages compounding her mystery.

The distinctive circular Club Room at The Bedford, bordered above by a narrow balcony, feels just like an intimate theatre space, adding to Retropxssy’s performance, even though space to the front of stage limited her customary forays into the crowd. The trip hop, genre-bending “Fading” came early in the set – perhaps her closest thing to an ever so slightly conventional song; the line “Picture of my arse on your homepage” always raises a smile. For “Wild Horse”, a track from her 2021 album Road Ahead, she took on the persona of the rider of an animal running wild and free. Her last single, “Speeding” saw her racing through her rhymes at breakneck speed while a trio of Road Ahead cuts, “House Wife”, “Part Of Me” and the dancey Garage-inspired “Sleepyhead” explored different aspects of her relationship with herself, all acted out with verve and commitment. She ended the set with “Out Of Place”, stuffing her mouth with gummy worms (sweets, no panic) and chucking a couple out to the front rows, bowing out to wild applause. What a performance that was!



Again, you catch watch Retropxssy’s full show at the end of this piece.


And finally, The Trusted. It has been a labour of love to devote column inches here to successive tracks by the Southend-on-Sea four-piece over the past three years. Tonight, the band got one up on ASLEF by hiring a coach to bring supporters all the way from Essex to see the band’s live debut at The Bedford. Their fans completed a packed room and contributed to a rousing response to an impassioned set from The Trusted. The band, comprising bothers Fin (bass) and Tom Cunningham (vocals) with Dale Holt-Mead on guitar and Dave Batchelor on drums, display a camaraderie rooted in secondary schooldays and collective musicianship; the combination of which recalls established acts like Doves and Kodaline. Tonight, The Trusted proved its worth to be considered alongside such indie-rock luminaries. Opening with the dynamic lead track from its recent EP, Lost Soul, the lads hit the ground running with raw emotions and stirring choruses.


The Trusted’s gift for creating memorable tunes allied to emotional lyrics continued with the nostalgic “Vellichor” (for Susie Dent fans, an invented word once described as ‘the strange wistfulness of a used bookshop’). Its retro feel was perfectly melded to lyrics seeking solace from the past. Shades of Arctic Monkeys were felt in the heavier “Doomsday”, bringing stadium-sized guitar rock with Dale displaying some exhilarating guitar effects. It was fast becoming one of those evenings when you have to list every song in the set as the band railed against information overload (“Millennium”), showed a lyrical side in the spacious “Arkansas” before returning to familiar ground with the politically-charged “Rebel Song”. There was time to air a new song, the riff-laden “Self Destruct”, before hitting a real crowd high with “Terrible Fight”, my standout of the night for its terrific ensemble playing against Tom’s heartfelt vocals. The tall frontman was a lanky bundle of energy all evening despite suffering from a dose of the lurgy.

 

The set closed with a new one to me, “Wild Love”, displaying much of the immediacy of its material followed by an encore of the band’s first ever single, “Turbulence”, which was a brave closer given how its music has developed progressively over subsequent years. Still, it went down a storm and gave Tom the chance to make a small foray into the crowd while Fin, Dale and Dave did what they had done throughout the set, simply laying down great bass, guitar and drums on every song. If The Trusted don’t make it to one of those fabled festival fields sooner or later, I will be amazed. I think our audience will agree and indeed give kudos to all tonight’s performers.



You can watch the entire show on The Bedford’s YouTube channel. The audio is muted while no one is on stage to prevent broadcasting of copyrighted background music so set times start at around 12:00 (Francesca), soon after 52:00 (Retropxssy) and 1:33:00 (The Trusted). Fans of faintly audible introductions can move the slider to a minute or two before those times to see and hear, or not, yours truly.





Comments


FIFTY3 champions

outstanding new music

through Fifty3 Fridays and

occasional features 

 

Music is a great passion of mine. In my teenage years I was an avid record collector and concert goer. Stints as a booking agent, running folk clubs, promoting gigs and even a crack at artiste management followed. While it never became my main occupation, music was always on my personal radar.

 

In the past 15 years I have written for leading US music website  Consequence and breakthrough  site, BestNewBands. I am a judge for Glastonbury Festival's Emerging Talent Competition and have reviewed the festival for both sites. I am now pleased to curate my very own music site.

 

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than unearthing great, original new music and championing independent musicians. You’ll find many of them on this site alongside the occasional legend of times past and I hope they will bring  you as much joy as they give me.

Tony Hardy

UPCOMING GIGS 

 

Selected dates in the London area:

Fri 7 Jun: Alexandra Leaving/Frankie Morrow, The Waiting Room, London N16

Sat 8 Jun: Bat For Lashes, St John's Church, Kingston

Sun 9 Jun: Blanid, The Black Heart, London NW1

Mon 17 Jun: The Mysterines, St John's Church, Kingston

Thu 20 Jun: Charm of Finches, The Lexington, London N1

banquetrecords.com: See the Events page for all live shows in Kingston

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