Words by John Noblet / Pics by Jonathan Morgan
I’m out of my comfort zone tonight. For once, I’m not in a darkened venue surrounded by skinny jeaned hipsters drinking lager from plastic cups. I’m in the Arcadian Centre too, an area I almost never go by choice, to watch Heidi Vogel – a singer perhaps best known for her work with The Cinematic Orchestra.
Tonight’s performance is in The Green Room, which sounds like a venue but in actual fact is a laidback eatery that’s more sophisticated than I’m used to. And after the initial shock of being in what could easily be the setting for a date scene in Friends, I do the polite thing and order a coffee.
As Vogel begins her set the first thing that hits me is her incredible voice; full and rich, the kind of vocals that fit perfectly over Jazz, Soul, Reggae, Electronica… tonight she is backed by a percussionist and acoustic guitar player.
The set consists of Brazilian style material, presumably from Heidi Vogel’s recently released debut album – Turn Up the Quiet, filled out with the odd cover or standard. The musicians provide a nuanced backing for Vogel‘s soaring voice, going for extended musical breaks which are focused enough to avoid the pitfalls of Jazz inflected noodling.
The second thing that hits me is a variation on one of the oldest chat up lines in the world – i.e. “what’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?” The obvious setting for Heidi Vogel is a hushed Jazz club, with her spotlighted on a small stage – and in some respects The Green Room is to be commended for finding such a high calibre of musician to entertain their Saturday night crowd.
But whilst it’s not unusual for extremely good musicians to earn money on this kind of gig circuit, I got the clear impression a lot of people in The Green Room that night were simply there to have a meal rather than listen to music. Pretty much every song was followed by warm applause, but the chatter during the music did make the intricacies difficult to pick out at times.
(Although having the musicians perform with The Green Room’s glass frontage as a cool backdrop, and watching the Saturday night revellers walk past the window, was an added bonus for me. I was also pleased to note brightly coloured sequins are still fashionable amongst a certain crowd)
After a quick break the musicians start to change around and we get a different guitarist and more percussion. It all seems fairly informal and improvised; the between-song conferring suggesting that a lot of what happens is decided on the spot. But I’m close enough to the players to see it’s definitely Vogel that’s leading it all, and at one point I hear her hiss “chorus” at one of the guitarists.
Towards the end of her set, Vogel gets Sonia Indigo up to sing a few songs; who, after faltering a bit, turns in a beautiful version of ‘Georgia’.
Sonia Indigo has been part of Birmingham’s music scene for years now and her voice never fails to move me – producers looking for a female vocalist ought to go knocking on her door before asking anyone else.
All in all, it’s a very pleasant evening. Heidi Vogel‘s music may be too relaxed for some people, but there’s enough going on to prevent it being purely ‘background’ – and if her style of music does appeal (Acoustic, Jazz, Brazilian) then you won’t find much better.
And just as Heidi Vogel’s first wave of success was with The Cinematic Orchestra, an act whose launch was perfectly timed to coincide with a wave of popularity for Chill Out music, let’s hope the tides of fashion bring her some more good luck in the not too distant future.
For more on Heidi Vogel, visit http://www.heidivogel.com/
For more on The Green Room, visit http://www.thegreenroomcafebar.co.uk/