Words by Ed King / Pics by Katie Foulkes
It was Morrison’s ‘only friend’. Editors reminded it also ‘has a start’. It’s the last stop on tethers, roads, lines and patience. And bank holidays, which is my rather ham handed segue into the timing of this review.
The place, The Institute – who’s posthumous prefix is an appropriate inclusion in the above list. But right now it’s ‘patience’ I’m concerned about, as tonight’s photographer is greeting me through professionally clenched teeth. I’m late, and sadly not by surprise.
But Lucy Rose is also at an end. Tonight the Warwickshire lass (lass, really? When did I become that guy…) with six strings and two sticks is wrapping up a 3 month UK tour, before throwing herself across the Atlantic to do the whole thing stateside.
And it’s a Birmingham denouement, which is helpful as I’ve repeatedly failed to see Lucy Rose since BR first covered her in June 2012; having had to hand review responsibilities to someone who wasn’t 5,000 miles away at the time.
So excited yes, late always, but I’m also a little nervous about breaking my Lucy Rose cherry at The Institute – a venue I hold dear, but one which can destroy acoustic led sets.
Lucy Rose’s debut album, Like I Used To, is a 15 track delight; beautifully produced, elaborate in tempo and altruistically understated. And it’s safe to say I’m a fan, but (after a disaster with Benjamin Francis Leftwich earlier in the week) I fear tonight will be another cacophony of bad levels. So dutifully missing yet another support act, I walk down into the Library with my gloves held high.
Perched high on a stool, like a mix of Joni Mitchell and James Dean, Lucy Rose opens with Gamble – the closing lament on her aforementioned LP. The room is still. Rose’s voice wavers, builds, and when the painful questioning is over gives a humble nod to the room.
The band enters for Place, with its melancholic lead into a driven chorus, and the stage becomes a cornucopia of musical support – from maracas to a particularly funky bass guitar.
Watch Over picks up a firmer pace (and funkier bass) before a sideways shift on her stool signals a rock out from Ms R. And as the post 2minute harmonies build layers on stage, I feel the room start to sway internally and my concerns dilute. This is not as ‘acoustic’ as I led myself to believe.
Endearing quips (although Dot to Dot is now lower on my festival hit list), crafted shifts in tempo and the occasional electric guitar takes us though the next few songs, before Middle of the Bed arrives like an old friend singing quietly at your door. Be Alright marks the last of the familiar, before Rose introduces a song “I haven’t played in ages, actually it’s a new one.”
A soft low melody treads its way over a steady tin lid beat, before a full band chorus and finale punches across the room. Rose’s vocals take on a stronger force, and I begin to see a different singer on stage. One without balsa wood furniture to smash around, but with equalling impact.
A quick sound check regurgitation fills the room with Calypso riffs and random fog horns, before First brings back the restrained acoustic over lullaby vocals.
Red Face prompts some steady hand clapping support (and reminds me Lucy Rose started out as a drummer) before another new song and directional nudge. Latin rhythm and sounds (whatever that conjures up for you) that carry a less discernible melody, but build, build, build – underpinning, again, much stronger vocals. And if this is the Lucy Rose of studio albums future, I’m keen to hear more.
Bikes marks the end of the set set, before the room of singing voices (who ‘scream out loud’ when prompted to in verse) demand an encore.
Thankfully someone requests her current single, Shiver, and we indulge the low acoustics and poignant lyrics that can resemble Lucy Rose at her finest.
A final new song, complete with Twilight Zone wah wah (according to my notes but perhaps not memory) and a crescendo like angry North Sea waves, sits as the meat in the encore sandwich – before Don’t Worry gets a production perfect delivery and finally signals good night.
So I add Lucy Rose’s set, UK tour and out of reach (to me anyway) bookings to my list of finalities. Along with the purported groceries at her merchandising desk, although I’m told the last jar of Plum & Ginger Jam was ‘the nicest thing I’ve eaten in ages’ (thanks Becky).
But, as Ms R meets and greets anyone who wants to, I get the feeling this is far from over. As Churchill once said, this is ‘perhaps, the end of the beginning’ for Lucy Rose; with a strong spidey sense telling me a new album will be out by Christmas.
Plus Lucy Rose will be back in Birmingham to play the Moseley Folk Festival on Sunday 1st September, which should give me just enough room to actually get there on time.
Maybe. Certain things never end.
Lucy Rose plays the Moseley Folk Festival on Sunday September 1st. For details and tickets, visit http://www.moseleyfolk.co.uk
For more on Lucy Rose, visit http://www.lucyrosemusic.com/
For more gigs at The Institute, visit http://mamacolive.com/theinstitute/
For more gigs from Birmingham Promoters, visit http://birminghampromoters.com/