Wednesday 26 September 2012

Charlotte Church and A Blossom Fell at Water Rats - 24 September 2012

This is one of those gigs that just had to be done…

We start off with Battle of The Roses, who don’t look well. This is entirely due to the lighting on the tiny Water Rats stage. Everyone is bathed in a harsh greeny-blue glare that cruelly exposes every drop of sweat and makes the band look like corpses that have been fished out of the river. Flattering it ain’t.

There are plenty of people in the band and they are rather enjoyable in a folky raggle taggle kind of way. Theirs is the sort of song that sounds as though they are telling tales of hardship on the sea even if they are not actually singing of things nautical. If you like The Decemberists, Battle Of The Roses could really polish your poop deck.

The band have an excellent violinist and a strong main singer. They add percussion by tapping and banging on the frame of their instruments. It turns out their drummer was recently deported and that they are now on the look out for a replacement. I actually think that tonight’s semi-acoustic approach suits them very well.

There is a lot of support in the room for A Blossom Fell. And as soon as they start up, you can tell why.

This London six piece are fronted by a trio of vocalists (Hannah, Louise and Sarah) who can really belt it out. In terms of volume I reckon that they are approaching six Aguileras on the full-on diva scale.

A Blossom Fell absolutely storm it this evening. It’s a naturally receptive audience, but there is so much sheer energy and obvious enjoyment pouring off the stage that resistance would be futile.

If there is a minor flaw it is that while each song is a perfect showcase for the power and range of the singers –and their harmonies are just terrific- that actual tunes are in short supply.

However, in the euphoria of a performance like this it doesn’t really matter if there is nothing that you can hum afterwards. A Blossom Fell just take the roof off tonight.

Charlotte Church is accompanied this evening by six very proficient guys who can barely fit on the stage. Church herself is resplendent in white and given a ghostly glow by the light from the lap top perched beside her.

She seems very nervous when she starts off, but soon relaxes and strikes up a warm rapport with the crowd.

It’s a mixed set of songs, encompassing the pure catchy pop of “Say It’s True” to the Rupert Murdoch – baiting “Mr The News”, which is genuinely angry and is closer to MBV noise rock than you would have expected.

Charlotte’s voice is a wonder and she does all that she can to protect it, wolfing down huge spoonfuls of honey and lemon every three songs or so.  It is during the several power-ballads that the Church pipes really come into their own. The clarity and emotional power that she generates is breathtaking.

The set meanders a bit and not all of the songs are as strong as their singer. One exception is a track that sees Church setting up a series of sound loops so that eventually her voice becomes its own backing track.

It’s a very winning performance and your heart goes out to her as, even as she unwinds, Church always has to be on her guard. She mentions the hot, dry atmosphere on the stage but admits that she can’t describe it in her preferred terminology because this would involve swearing.  She sticks to water and her honey/lemon mixture throughout.

The evening finishes with a disco-lite number called “James”. Charlotte smiles, waves and is gone, having already told us that she doesn’t do encores because she finds the experience of standing in the wings and wondering if she should return too traumatic.

It’s been an unexpectedly fine evening, with some stand out vocal displays. I can barely manage a grunt while A Blossom Fell and Charlotte Church positively soar.

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