I’ve always been intrigued by gigs that are structured as proper “events”. Not just a normal show given a fancy name (“festivals” that are basically an all-day indoor gig, for example), but the kind of show where the artist in question has really pushed the boat out, with more than just music, and actually attempts to entertain for the whole evening.
This evening was one of those shows. The show had a programme, of sorts, featuring solo entertainers early on that worked nicely as background music (an accordionist and an acoustic guitarist in turn), followed by support act Tom Hickox (of which more in a moment), and even Rebekah making a point of splitting her set into two to allow an intermission that included even more impressive entertainment (a burlesque puppet show, of sorts – the puppet was another actor!, and a jaw-droppingly good acrobat). And all of this in the gloriously palatial surroundings of Bush Hall (not that it looks so palatial from the outside, in it’s position on a workaday part of the Uxbridge Road).
However, when it came to the main support act, I have to confess that I was left somewhat cold by Tom Hickox and his gloomy, Cohen-esque songs, in the main. Most followed a similar pattern, with lots of piano-based songs and his deep, deep voice strangely bereft of emotion…With the exception of one quite extraordinary song called The Lisbon Maru, a plaintive retelling of a story that apparently no-one believed in the first place, involving a survivor of said wreck, that managed to be both deeply sad and strangely uplifting at the same time.
I’ve already seen Rebekah Delgado live a few times this year, and each time has got better and better, in different ways – and here it was even better. Pushing the boat out a bit with the band, there were nine or more people onstage, with additional backing vocalists, additional guitarists (even Rob Davis from Mud fame for MÃ©nage A Moi!) and her music also benefitted enormously from a wondrously good sound-set up that meant every song was crystal clear in every element, even with so many people involved.
As befitted a show that was launching her new album, the whole album was aired, with a few extra tracks sneaking in too, some of which were familiar, some not. An intro of the album interlude Dark Waltz was a great way to start, allowing the whole band a proper introduction as they took to the stage, before heading into a non-album track – but regular live song Palabras Para Julia, a pretty love song that sweeps and swoons (and is assisted in translation with the words being held up in English!).
Talking of sweep, Lamentine is full of dramatic changes of tempo, religious imagery, and like a number of songs never quite seems to be long enough, and was followed by the gorgeous, dark lullaby of Little Boy Blue, a quasi-nursery rhyme taken into much darker, adult realms. Somewhere where said boy has grown up, and turned twisted and manipulative.
That darkness runs through the heart of all of Delgado’s songs, and it is perhaps notable that the more it permeates, the better the song (in the main!). The dreamy Day Like Any Other comes across more as a nightmare than good thoughts, while I still feel the weakest song is what became the first single Sing You Through The Storm, the self-help manual-esque attitude really doing nothing for me at all.
Palabras Para Julia
Little Boy Blue
Day Like Any Other
Sing You Through The Storm
Ménage A Moi
The Hunger That Never Sleeps
Trying to Forget You
I Wish You Were Mine
The second set, after the entertainment-and-mojito-cupcake-filled intermission, started with an appropriate (ooh-bang) bang in the form of recent single Ménage A Moi, which in some hands would be a throwaway song. Not here. A multi-lingual, three-minute flourish about, well, getting off while a significant other is away, it somehow manages to keep on the side of tongue in cheek while being filthy and sexy, and live this is enhanced even further by the backing vocals that make the subject matter all the more obvious for those that weren’t paying attention in the first place. After that, though, we were swiftly plunged back into the darkness, the very Mazzy Star-esque The Hunger That Never Sleeps, a song drenched in reverb and an atmosphere that suggests a bleak, lonely night.
Remarkably – maybe it is just my familiarity with the songs after having had the album for a few weeks – it was revealed that neither that song nor the one that followed, had ever been played live before. Here’s hoping they are again, as both were wonderful live. Particularly Scoundrelle, the one moment where Delgado moves out of her comfort zone a little and unleashes a torrent of measured fury, aimed squarely at another woman interfering in her relationship. The white-heat of anger propels the song forward, and makes it an instant standout on record and live.
As we neared the end of the show, the closing songs from the album closed things out – which in some ways always struck me as being the slightly more world-weary songs on it, where positivity has been drained away, replaced by resignation. Sunrise tries desperately to look for the dawn in the wreckage of the day, but it never quite comes, and the glorious, closing Vampires is a defiant torch song, both accepting and fighting the passage of time and how it changes the people around us. And as a rousing, sweeping ballad, was much the appropriate closer for a gig such as this.
Yeah, we say it often perhaps, those of us reviewing up-and-coming artists. But really, this show struck me as the point where Rebekah Delgado finally did true justice to the sound that she has always hinted at in both recorded and live environments. By having the space, and the willing participants to make this show something special, it succeeded on every level and confirmed that she has a bright future in a bigger pond, surely, than the London indie scene.
New album Don’t Sleep is out now. Buy here.