Tonight’s singer first came onto our radar in 2015 with his undeniably great lo-fi single ‘Last Words’. At the time he was heralded at the UK’s answer to Jeff Buckley, and major labels swarmed around him - even Jay-Z was rumoured to have been involved in his very first movements as a professional musician.
Since then, the singer ducked out from releasing too much, didn’t have a band and trickled out a string of lo-fi ballads. But then, earlier this month, in comes his debut EP, Death Of You And I; and here in the shabby chic surrounds of Omeara, London Bridge, he has a live band to play the songs from it alongside new material, and early fan favourites.
The crowd are a well-mannered, friendly bunch all intent on guzzling niche branded beers and sinking into great songwriting. Thankfully, we’ve a much more rounded performer to host the evening compared to the teenager bedroom troubadour who showed promise in 2015, but still had a way to go to have a proper show.
The opening part of the gig is dedicated to above mentioned EP, and the first two tracks are fairly low tempo yet transfixing thanks to the uncanny, gripping and naturally hook laden vocals. There’s nothing new about what he does; but he does come across like a major player. This is evident as Guy Garvey is in the audience, almost passing the baton in a graceful way as if to say, ‘g’wan ‘r kid, keep great tradition of singer/songwriting thriving at the highest level.’
When the main track from the EP - the glamour rock rabble rouser ‘Death of You and I’ - kicks in; and it sinks in how far he’s come: he has enough changes in sonic gradient to hold the attention of an increasingly restless population, prone to checking phones more regularly than clapping hands. His careful use of dynamics works: no one here seems bothered about what’s going on elsewhere, and are entranced with the gritty Rickenbacker guitar, inventive percussion, and harmonious backing vocals that sit afloat a warm wall of bass.
Mid-set and Gracie doesn’t seem to have taught his backing band - who are typical un-flamboyant session players, who don't overshadow Gracie's magnetism - so they go off stage. The singer's back strumming acoustically, and performing cathartic ballads with a strong narrative that begs a re-listen - where they sit in his oeuvre, though, isn't immediately obvious.
When the band come back on the most immediately grabbing track of the whole set ‘Running On Empty’ hits in, and has such a strong groove that it sounds like the one to really let go to if there was any space to dance; but there isn't it's sardines in Omeara.
As we reach the end of the set, ‘Reverie’ seems so well rehearsed that Gracie really lays his body into the sound, leaning his head back, and expressing what a spell being in this tightly-knit unit is. The band leave the stage allowing Gracie to nail 'Last Words' with a smile of relief, an unspoken confidence glows brightly between his long curtains.
As the set wraps, it dawn’s that although he’s not even got an album yet; but we’ve heard at least half the tracks being belted back to him from the crowd, and that it's a micro version of an atmosphere that's likely to be as tight on a much bigger scale. He currently has some shows lined up all around the country supporting Angus and Julia Stone, and it can’t be long before a midday slot at Glastonbury Pyramid stage is shown his way.
I believe this is largely because his songs have a universal quality and cut to the truth in very few words. This line: “I thought I was having fun, but no / I was just looking for the one” is sickeningly romantic but he gets away with it.and he seems on the same page as Morrissey's gospel that ‘All Young People Must Fall In Love’ i.e. which is a strong, poetic realisation to focus, and hone ones songwriting. He can crack out love ballads with all sorts of dark, twisted imagery for years to come, and we'll listen.
Picture provided by ipad extraordinare, Mike Smith, who can be found on instagram: 65mikesmith