The Cluny II
Monday 21 Sept 2015
After thoroughly enjoying her debut album, Sweet Surrender, I’ve been looking forward to this gig for weeks. Sadly I’d had ‘one of those days’ at work and missed the first act and was still a bit grumpy when support act #2 Clandestino crammed themselves onto the front of the small stage. The quartet of bass, piano, guitar and singer/drummer had my head spinning like the girl in the Exorcist with their first ‘number’!
It was so Avant Garde I thought I’d stumbled on a Brothers of Invention concert!
Thankfully the rest of their 30 minute slot was nothing like that at all; in fact the acoustic guitarist was quite exceptional in a Classical-Jazz fusion kind of way and the singer had a voice that could melt Minstrels; coupled with a static bass player and extrovert pianist Clandestino eventually won me over.
The last two songs, Little Feet and Take My Time were perfect for a late night Jazz Club; and got me to thinking that a good producer (Steven Moore aka Smoove?) could really bring their sound together.
Lauren Housley had been watching from the shadows and applauded noisily after every song.
The chanteuse had a big smile on her face as she made her way onto the stage with her ensemble of six young musicians; yes….SIX! There was so much hair on show in the band that The Eagles had landed; but when Lauren began chatting I realised it was actually Crosby, Stills, Nash and Yorks! (a joke m’lud).
The band opened their set with The Waiting Game which had several people nodding along and mouthing the words; which was a good thing as the album has only just been released. With so many musicians on stage the ‘backing’ wasn’t as ‘together’ as it could have been; but they were finding their feet and things could (and did) only get better.
Lauren herself showed no nerves and sang like an experienced ‘road warrior’ from start to finish; adding light and shade and depth to each and every song, whether they be rockers or ballads.
When introducing the delightfully sad Face The World Alone the chatty Lauren stopped herself mid-sentence before telling us we could make our own minds up what the song was about. I have my own ideas and you will too; and I heartily recommend you listen to the song yourself.
A couple of album tracks were expanded on tonight and Sweet Surrender was simply beautiful as Lauren’s heartfelt vocals were complemented by some truly mournful pedal-steel guitar and a band that were subtle enough to showcase the singer’s voice in all its glory.
I was surprised that their single Ghost Town Blues turned up so early in the gig; especially as it had received plenty of National airplay (cue a funny story about Jeremy Vine) and the song itself was an absolute belter.
The final song All You Need is a Friend was even better than on record, with the band all taking turns to show their skills; but never enough to be boring.
Songs from the album were interspersed with a couple of covers, with Jolene being turned into less of a Southern Gothic melodrama but a Northern Methodist Soap Opera and I’d love it to be recorded in a similar fashion. While I loved that, the rocked up interpretation of Paul Simon’s Graceland didn’t really work; but that’s a small critique of a wonderful gig.
As Lauren thanked the audience at the end she realised the guitarist was re-tuning his guitar, which took the drama out of their ‘will they/won’t they’ do an encore.
In it’s own way the encore was the highlight of the evening as a friend joined them onstage during a stirring and prolonged version of the Weight.
As always I like to let my readers have an idea what to expect from a singer they’ve not heard before and tonight my notes were littered with names like Rita Coolidge, Tin Turner (honestly) and Dame Maggie Bell, but it was my brother who ‘nailed it’ – cast your mind back to the character Bette Midler played in the Rose. A perfect match.