Words by Ed King
The first time I saw Charlene Soraia she made me cry. Admittedly I’d just drunk two large glasses of wine and buried my Grandmother, but I was still apprehensive. A man weeping, alone, in a city centre venue; this is not how I want to be known.
She’d been supporting Fink, on the UK leg of his ‘Perfect Darkness’ promotion, and now back at The Glee Club, touring her debut album – ‘Moonchild’, Soraia had the main stage all to herself. Which gave me about 90 minutes in which to hold it together.
The stage was full; a back line, mandolin and box of effects pedals – making a crowded change from the one-girl-one-guitar I’d seen before.
The venue was at two thirds capacity, not bad for a sunny Sunday afternoon in Brum, and I found a seat in front of two girls with a Selfridges drawl. I scanned the room – mixed. Charlene Soraia’s last Birmingham gig was at the Girl Guide’s Big Gig at the NEC, playing alongside Olly Murs and The Saturday’s. The curse of a well received cover lurked by the bar.
Saying more in the first 2 minutes of her headline gig than the entire Fink support slot, Soraia opened with ‘When We Were Five’ – the lead track from ‘Moonchild’. Managing to recreate the “bit trippy” effects, this well produced track sounded even better on stage.
Accompanied by a backline of Dan’s, Soraia moved confidently through two of her strongest; ‘Lightyears’ and ‘Postcards from iO’, giving an unexpected (cliché alert) richer sound live.
Pausing only to tell us about her love of Dad jokes and Teddy Bear interrogation techniques; one of the funniest non sequiturs I’ve heard in a while, her next song – ‘Rowing’, one of my favourites from the album, didn’t quite match up on stage.
A quick move through ‘Bike’; where the Danline went (weirdly) a bit gameshow, and onto ‘Broken’ – a new track which “might be my next single, unless you think its crap”. It wasn’t, and we didn’t, although some short jabbing chords tarnished an otherwise beautiful melody.
The Danline then left, leaving Soraia alone with her mandolin to play ‘Midsummer Moon in June’ – crushing my previous procrastinations about ‘obvious’ Folk lyrics. Apparently even I can be wrong.
Closing with two new songs; the frenetic fret work of ‘Animal’ clearly “well fun to play”, we’d almost made it without hearing the elephant in the charts. Every track had been lauded and applauded, from a crowd clearly in support, throughout a strong set of old and new. So as Soraia introduced her cover of The Calling’s infantile ballad, ‘Wherever You May Go’, I asked the question again – why?
Because she can. Beautifully. Effortlessly. In a voice I suspect isn’t human. At the end of her cover, there were whales somewhere clapping.
And, as a man who loves words, if someone can sing, ‘Way up high, or down low, I’ll go wherever you will go’ without making me claw out a retina; they must be pretty fucking special.
A cursory clap, an immediate encore, a heckled request and two very different denouements; Charlene Soraia left the stage triumphant. And I left The Glee Club, proud of not embarrassing myself by succumbing to tears.
Although, when I clap and laugh that loud I do sound like a seal.