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Frazey Ford – Live @ Union Chapel

| On 19, Oct 2015

Frazey Ford

Tuesday 13th October, London

It’s a chilly, damp night in Islington, North London and I’m weaving my way through the hurrying blur of suited, brief case wielding business people, their faces aglow with the faint light of their mobile phones. Don’t they realise I have somewhere important to be?! Tonight I’m going to witness an artist who came to prominence in the late 90s with her Americana/Folk outfit The Be Good Tanyas. I am of course here to see Frazey Ford.

The slight annoyance I have with my outward journey to tonight’s show dissipates as I round dash across the street into Compton Terrace and see the view before me. Not only is it a thrill to see an artist that I know relatively little about (I later find out that Ford has been winning ears at Jazz festivals across the country) and particularly different compared to what I might usually select for a night of aural wonderment, but it is at one of the most stunning venues I have ever had the fortune of entering. For anyone that hasn’t been to the Union Chapel I urge you to make it your duty as a music lover and a culture vulture to pay a visit.

The venue has a spiritual beauty (as one might expect in a church) without any preachy overbearing. This is something of which I would later find out is a perfect setting for what is about to unfold before this congregation’s gaze. Standing in front of an ominous pulpit that has been dusted with blue light is tonight’s stage and the excitement is utterly palpable. My pew is situated somewhere up in the heavens where I have a perfect view across the balcony stage

The first thing that I notice as the band meander onto the stage to a respectful and admiring applause is the understated cool that the band exude. They settle in behind the sequenced vision that is Frazey Ford and the night has begun.

As the band strikes up, beginning to unravel melodies and rhythms from each of their instruments, the musicians on stage with Ford are playing impeccably with a dynamic that is particularly vital whilst playing in the cavernous surroundings that we find ourselves in this evening. The subtle movement and groove of the band allow Ford’s creamy, delicately delivered vocal to trickle amongst the audience with its Americana, Folk and Gospel influences being made clearer by every song. With backing vocals from an equally soulful female vocalist (of which I’m appalled at myself for not quite catching her name when Ford introduced her!) the harmonies add an incredibly sense of awe to the specific lines and sometimes just singular words which, it seems to me, Ford has crafted with great care and attention.

Already, even by this point, it is obvious to me that not only is this an artist that has a charming and intimate connection with her audience but Ford also moves from song to song at her own pace which never feels rushed or under pressure to keep the crowd entertained…The crowd are entranced with the effortless charisma of Frazey Ford.

Ford’s raconteur qualities also shine through in bursts throughout the gig. One such moment is when she is describing her self-confessed “Bitch anthem” entitled ‘Done’ which is taken from her most recent musical offering Indian Ocean (2014). Another moment where the modesty and warmth of this artist is when she describes the story behind ‘Separate’  which Ford describes as a “Sesame Street take on a political song”. One of my favourite performances of the night took the form of a Gospel number, which Ford conveys to the audience as being influenced by ‘nature and Aretha Franklin’ and I’ll think you’ll agree, as subject matter goes, what a combination. This track oozed an intense spiritualism, impacting upon the intently listening flock, bolstered by the magnificent venue; her opulent vocal runs filling even the furthest corners of the chapel.

Following from this rousing performance, Ford settles in to her shy yet captivating story telling position, letting the audience in to a slice of her personal history, detailing the events of how she ended up in Canada as a young girl (Ford’s hippy parents moved for the US to leave any sense of oppressive government).  It’s this song that channels a vocal delivery of which Joni Mitchell would be proud of and rewards Ford and her crew with a well deserved standing ovation.

As the heavy, thick applause reminiscent of a deluge on a tin roof peters out to pin-drop quietness, the crowd waits with bated breath for the encore. This track is by far the most outstanding of the night. ‘Blue Streak Mama’ is a sexy, groove-based piece with a cool that would be right at home in a dimly light beat club in Paris or the Jazz lounges of New York. It’s serpent movement and rhythmic presence is an absolute gem and provides an incredible contrast to the subtlety, which is a constant in the previous songs performed….not better, might I add, just completely different and I adored the change in pace to the set. Ford’s loyal fans make no bones about their love her honest, mellifluous songwriting which becomes especially transparent when she receives not only a second (which is followed by an intimately penned piece called ‘Firecracker’, dedicated to Ford’s brother and “those who burn bright and burn out so soon”) but also a third encore and second standing ovation.

I urge you to check out Frazey Ford and the great musicians who play along side her live while you can! I was, without doubt, in a chapel of love.

Chris Hutchings