Summer Night With Bella Union @ Union Chapel
aaamusic | On 27, Jun 2010
London, 24th June
Alessi’s Ark, Lone Wolf, Mountain Man & John Grant
Described by its hosts (Bella Union) as a ‘very special intimate summer concert’, Thursday night’s gig was exactly that. Held in the beautiful Union Chapel, the concert was a sort of mini festival, headlined by an eclectic but well-selected group of acts – Alessi’s Ark, Lone Wolf, Mountain Man and John Grant.
The evening kicked off with a short set from solo artist Alessi’s Ark. Though the titular Alessi was obviously nervous, this luckily didn’t hinder her performance and actually proved to make her even more endearing to the audience, a fact no doubt helped by her dreamy, innocent vocals and quirky lyrics, the latter of which range from simple and upbeat in songs such as The Dog to the more introspective and thoughtful in Woman. Though the set was only a few songs long due to time restrictions, Alessi’s Ark is definitely an act that could hold her own in solo gigs and, if you haven’t heard of her already, is worth checking out.
Alessi was quickly followed by Lone Wolf (otherwise known as Paul Marshall). In contrast, Lone Wolf is a far more epic sound – a feat Marshall manages to pull off without ever falling into melodrama. Supported by a wealth of instruments, Marshall’s voice is emotional yet smooth, effortlessly jumping from delicate to powerful again between tracks – Marshall has clearly mastered both. Finishing his set with the haunting The Devil and I, Lone Wolf has undeniably made a lasting impact on his audience.
Mountain Man’s set was exactly as you would imagine it to be – intimate, open and unique – very much like their music. Their often hymn-like harmonies seemed perfectly suited to the chapel setting, as did their choice of songs; mid-way through their set the girls performed a rendition of the classic Babylon. What is interesting about Mountain Man is their apparent lack of a front woman – there was no ‘lead’ singer. Instead the girls created a unique sound using only their voices and a single acoustic guitar, often dispensing with the instrument altogether. Throughout the set the band interacted with each other and the audience – their obvious closeness came across both in their music and in their general attitude. They were relaxed and laid-back, qualities that definitely rubbed off on the audience and added to the intimate feel of the evening.
A set from John Grant ended the evening on a high note. Grant’s experience as a musician was clear from the off, with tracks ranging from slow-burning to powerfully emotional to amusing, all within a single set. His confidence was well-founded – with his winning combination of powerful vocals and touching lyrics, it’s no surprise he had a fair few fans in the audience. Grant’s lyrics are particularly appealing – though he often deals with difficult issues, he does so in a very human way, mixing comedy with sadness (as is life) to avoid heavy-handedness. Grant’s set ended with fan favourites Fireflies and Caramel (with Fireflies being requested by Mountain Man’s Molly Sarle, who had since joined the audience at this point). The fact that after having performed, the artists, instead of disappearing back stage, came out to enjoy the show with everyone else says it all -there was no pretension or egoism to be found at this gig, only what was intended – intimacy.
Author: Katharine Sparks
Photos: Laura Oliver