Friday, December 25, 2009

Songs Of The Year: 2009


Hello people, hope you are all feeling well and festive at this time of year, and enjoying the food, frivolities and fun. It's time to share my songs of the year, and get a retrospective on a year in which girls and synths dominated. It's also a shock to think it's the final year of the decade. Here goes....

1. Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) – Florence & The Machine. Though it sounds like she's saying "Lube it up" in the bridge instead of "Raise It up" (that's probably my filthy mind), this clever concoction of Alice In Wonderland meets Greek Mythology with pagan rites thrown in was refreshing, quirky introduced the world to Florence Welsh, who I've no doubt will be with us for many years to come, coming in a great tradition of British, cooky and brilliant female singer songwriters like Kate Bush and PJ Harvey. Pop brilliance, and though I'm sick of hearing it now, probably my favourite song of the year. 2009 was the year she was robbed of the Mercury Music Prize too, incidentally, by an unworth act I will not even grace with a mention, such is my wrath towards them....

2 Little Lion Man– Mumford and Sons. Seeing this 5-piece supporting the Maccabees in the middle of the year, I (rightly as always, ahem) predicted big things for this band, who are affiliated to the same London folk set that spawned Noah and The Whale and Laura Marling, and it shows. A sincere and heartfelt portrait of a failing relationship, this song forms a great companion to NTW's breakup album The First Days Of Spring.

3. Just Dance – Lady Gaga. Ok she's weird, and clearly one fruit short of a basket, but the 2009, if you remember, began with this slab of 80s revival pop perfection, which instantly reminded me of what Madonna might be doing if she was young and relevant, though on reflection, Gaga may lack the likeability and charisma to still be around in 20 years. Still, this song about getting hosed in a club and forgetting where you are is something most 16 year olds can relate to, so she seemed to capture a moment this year, not least with equally brilliant singles Poker Face and Paparazzi.

4. New York State of Mind – Jay-Z. The elder statesman/ grand dame of hip hop continued his return from retirement with his first album proper (soundtrack to American Gangster notwithstanding) to remind us all how it's done, with The Blueprint 3, and in this song he seems keen to confirm his legacy as on of the greats, putting himself in the same lineage as major league players such as Sinatra, telling us of the Big Apple, "And If I can make it here / I can make it anywhere". Alicia Key's chorus thankfully does well do distract you from his enormous ego. You've got to admire the man's ambition though, and this year, following the Glastonbury appearance of 2008, it seems that he had indeed cemented his reputation as a rapper and musician of genuine distinction, and so his various British media appearances felt like something of a victory tour.

5. I'm Not Your Toy - La Roux. I started the year hating this cauterwalling red headed 21 year old, as she surfed on a wave of Hoxton media set-sponsored acclaim into the charts with 'In The For The Kill'. I must confess I mellowed on her and by halfway through the year found myself liking this infectious synth number, even if it has a bizarre video. It does sound like a Yazoo, Depeche Mode or Erasure number that escaped from 1983, though.

6. Daniel – Bat For Lashes. Another mad as a brush female singer songwriter, though thankfully a good one, Natasha Khan, like many other girls, has a career to thank Amy Winehouse for. Not that they sound remotely the same but as is obvious from my run down of songs, which would normally be a lot more butch, 2009 was dominated by women as a result of the critical and commercial success of Wino back in 2006. Khan, like Florence, is clearly influenced by Kate Bush, but where as Welsh borrows, Khan steals wholesale. That's no bad thing however, and for a generation of music fans who've never heard the anything like this, 'Daniel ' was a brilliant record, which again could have escaped from the better end of 80s music. And apparently, the 'Daniel' it's dedicated to is in fact Ralph Macchio from Karate Kid. Wax on, Wax off!


7. Zero - Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Fashion icon Karen O and her uber-cool band of New Yorkers (pictured) returned this year, moving on from their punk beginnings. Forced into an early release by illegal copies circulating on the internet, the album from this came was a mixed affair which left some accusing the band of flattering to deceive with their promise of going electric, but this electro-punk number certain hit the spot.

8. Warm In The Shadows – Music Go Music. This song hasn't actually been released yet, but having done the rounds in certain critical circles, this LA band, signed to Mercury, toured England in autumn of this year in support of Franz Ferdinand, and, catching them doing a performance at this year's In The City, this is the one song that didn't leave my stereo for weeks. I expect big things from them in 2010, and this was one hell of a taster.

9. Eminem – Beautiful. Two or three years ago he Nearly cashed his chips after a run in with the kind of super-powerful prescription drugs that sadly finished off Michael Jackson this year, but this year everyone's favourite white rapper Marshall Mathers returned with 'Relapse', his first album in five years. Continuing his uniquely tortured, autobiographical style, we had portraits of serial killers in the chilling '3.a.m', insights into fame with 'We Made You', and this, self-produced, rather sentimental number. I have something of a penchant for soft rock, so I just couldn't resist the Paul Rogers intro.....

10. The 59 Sound – The Gaslight Anthem. I have a feeling they may go onto be a minor footnote in music, but I must admit falling in love with the whole 'Jersey Sound' thing early this year, particularly in the run up to Bruce ' The Boss' Springsteen's appearance at Glastonbury and Hard Rock Calling. The inheritors of his Blue-collar, East Coast rock released this compelling dose of story-telling punk rock earlier this year, and though the rest of the album didn't quite live up to it, I still love this record. There's a version from Glasto with them join on stage by the Boss himself here.

Merry Xmas and Happy NY everyone!!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Creature With The Atom Brain and The Dead Weather, Manchester Academy, 19 October

With autumn, comes the return of students, and therefore bands, bands and more bands on the touring trail of the country's universities, hoping to capture gain and maintain a fanbase. Tonight's support, contenders Creature With An Atom Brain, are aiming to capture the heart of Manchester' students, and hail from Belgium of all places, Though it's unlikely you've heard of them, their claim to fame so far is that lead singer Aldo Struyf has played keyboards for Millionaire and the Mark Lanegan Band.

Sadly, it's most likely to stay that way, as the 4 piece offer a set that consists of 70s psych-rock, and which is, for the greater part, made up of overly long songs that sound identical, and proceed at exactly the same tempo. The addition of random time changes cannot disguise the basic over-indulgence, as most numbers are based around a single riff, and lack a sense of direction and purpose. And for a band influenced by Roky Erickson and 13 Floor Elevators, that's a shame, though their brand of drug-induced riffery might go down better in the US, to which the band clearly owe their sound.


While the assembled Academy crowd are largely respectful but unimpressed by CWTAB, everything changes the moment the lights go down, a mysterious blue symbol is lit up on the back wall, and the Dead Weather emerge onto the stage. A supergroup variously formed from members of QOTSA, The Raconteurs, The Kills and of course the White Stripes earlier this year, a quick chat amongst various punters reveals what we already know : most of tonight's audience are here to see what they perceive as Jack White's new band.

All eyes however fall immediately on the magnetic stage prescence of The Kills' Alison Mossheart, dressed all in black, smouldering, very much the rock goddess incarnate, as she sways around, dragging the mike back and forth. She's like every hot female lead singer ever, be it Debbie Harry or Chrissie Hynde, both irresistible and untouchable. The contrast with the support band is like night and day. The Dead Weather sway wonderfully, performing with a sense of theatre and rock and roll attitude lacking in CWAB's set. Beginning with 60 Feet Tall from the bands' one and only album Horehound, its' haunting trip hop blues reminiscent of Portishead.


The crowd are desperate for a sign of Jack White though, and indulging in his rock drummer fantasy behind the skins, he's hard to see, despite his Keith Moon style histrionics. By the fourth song, a cover of Them's 'You Just Can't Win' he's up assisting on vocal duties, which he dedicates to Noel Gallagher, and it's quickly becoming clear that The Dead Weather is very much his baby. The various elements that characterise his output, the early blues, the Dylanesque lyrics, the Zeppelin riffs, they're all present. The Dead Weather does have a much more contemporary feel than The Raconteurs, though, and the there's more of a sense of musical dynamism in the interplay between the musicians than is present in the simple, direct songwriting of The White Stripes. Ironically, Jack White is also a better drummer than his sibling/wife/mate/whatever Meg, but it's a bit like having Wayne Rooney in goal ; you know he can do the job, but you really want him up front.

By the end, that's where he is, as Mossheart sits up on the speakers, sipping what can only be strong liquor, and White plays a trademark solo on the epically plaintive blues of 'Will There Be Enough Water'. After a brief intermission there is the obligatory encore, which White begins by giving a shout out to Oldham (birthplace of his British wife) and telling the crowd that he “loves walking down the street down here”. The band end energetically on 'Treat Me Like Your Mother', and the song's refrain “You blink when you breath/ and you breath when you lie” is left ringing in our ears on what has been an impressive, accomplished and varied set which has been thrown together and rehearsed in a very short space of time, though it doesn't show. For most of its' members, The Dead Weather may not be their day job, but it sounds like it.

Credits for photos goes to Luke Hannaford get in touch with him if you like his photos!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In The City, Day 1, Sunday 18th October

For those who don't know, In The City is the world famous conference for the music industry, where labels, journalists, and bands meet to discuss the big issues facing the business, and often, to do business. It's touted as Britain's answer to SXSW. That includes signing bands, and it's accompanying live shows, which are open to the public, have helped launch the careers of many major bands that have played, including Arctic Monkey (2005), The Chemical Brothers (1995), Oasis (1992), and Coldplay (1997).
This year will see performances by no less than 150 bands, some of whom have just been signed, and some of whom will be signed at the event, so this is the place to be to get an idea of what acts may breakthrough into the charts in the next year or two. I decided to get in on the action, so what follows is my review of the acts I managed to catch on the first night of the event.

Ou Est La Swimming Pool, Night And Day

It's early evening and the ITC festivities are just beginning. Members of the public who have bought wristbands are mingling with jaded industry types, waiting to be impressed. One of the first acts of the 3 days are Radio One's favourites OELSP, presumably named after a tricky lesson in GSCE French, in which they didn't pick up the word 'piscine'. Unlike many of the acts over the coming days, they are signed and rapidly in the process of becoming an established name, with an album to come in November, and so the 4 piece North Londoners decided to head north and grace the tiny, cramped stage of Night And Day with their presence.

It turned out to be a gig that set the tone for much of the evening, in that their 'boys with synths' schtick was repeated throughout the night – evidently this is what major label A & R execs think the forthcoming year is about, and the only variation apparently lies in the execution. Thankfully, OELSP did have charm and a sense of fun in their favour, and having supported the likes of La Roux, Mr Hudson and Reverend and the Makers, the live delivery to charm the punters in what is essentially a very tough gig.

First up was 'Jacksons Last Stand', and lead singer Charlie Haddon's energetic and forceful delivery, alongside cohort and fellow vocalist Khan gave their Pet Shop Boys sound a hip hop feel as they jumped about the stage, and walked up and down. With his shock of blond hair, and the fresh faced look of the front pairing, this made the act strangely reminiscent of East 17, or perhaps the Beastie Boys covering the Pet Shop Boys. Good or bad? You decide.

By OELSP's third song, a new number 'Better', described by Charlie himself, with his tongue firmly in cheek, as a 'love ballad', they had switched gears, and the result was like a footy hooligan getting in touch with his feelings and talking about his love for his bird. With another, more uptempo number, then breakup song 'The Key', singer Haddon said farewell on behalf of the band, and the Camden quartet finally ended proceedings with current hit single 'Dance The Way I Feel'. One suspects it's not the last we'll hear from those boys.......


Kirsty Almeida, Band On The Wall

Meanwhile, across on the other side of Manchester's hip Northern Quarter, the re-opened venue Band On The Wall sees the industry unveiling of Universal's new signing Kirsty Almeida, accompanied by, wait for it, an 11 piece backing band, including a 3 piece brass section known as 'Hornography', and a 4 piece string section.

This Gilbraltar-born singer songwriter has her work cut out for her finding her own space in the crowded marketplace that has become that of the female solo artist in recent years. Her sound fits somewhere between Norah Jones and Corinne Bailey Ray, but her take on that radio-friendly combination of jazz/folk/soul is slightly more esoteric, at various different times taking in styles as diverse as swing jazz, country (not the Alt. Stuff) and Latin, so she does make a different, and distinctive proposition.

Tonight there is a sense of occasion in the air, and as I chat to members of the audience, I discover friends of hers who tell me she has just returned from Spain, where she had been recording with a top producer (it turns out to be none other than 'Youth') for the last month working on the songs, so this evening is the first occasion to air her newly refined sound before industry bods.

After being introduced by her guitarist, who looks and dresses a bit like Mark Ronson, she begins her set rather appropriately by singing 'Gather Round', with it's country feel, funky bass and slide guitar, sounding like a jazzier Morcheeba. Almeida has a resemblance to Mel C of the Spice Girls, and, with her hair up, glitter on her face, and wearing a billowing black dress (which she later tells the audience, apparently in all serious, is a parachute!), looks very much like one of the beautiful people.

By the second song, which brass led, bossanova type number, with Latin horn stabs reminiscent of the Buena Vista Social Club, the singers' voice takes on a Billie Halliday like quality, before the third track, 'Cool Down Rewind'. Clearly the most commercial song of the set, it's a love song with big commercial radio hit written all over it, very much in the vein of Corinne Bailey Rae.

Similarly accessible 'You're The Wrong Mr Right', with it's playful lyrics sounds like it was made especially for the soundtrack of a Hollywood romcom. After singing the title in the chorus throughout the song, she ends by telling her mystery man 'But You're The Right Mr Wrong Tonight'. The truth is songs like this may indeed end up in a movie soundtrack. After a couple more numbers, 'Wishing Well', and another, Beatlesy big brassy number, I hurriedly leave Band On the Wall and make my way across town, reflecting. It strikes me that she will sit well alongside the likes of Jamie Cullum on Radio 2 or Smooth FM, and though her more esoteric influences may require a little effort to follow, it's entirely possible she will be coming to a supermarket CD rack near you.


I return to Night and Day to catch the end of Wolf Gang (pictured above at the ICA earlier this year), expecting a 80s throwback synth-driven solo artist. On closer inspection, what I get is actually a 4 piece band with lead singer switching between the guitar and synth for various songs. The result generic 80s rock which may grow on me, but at the time is underwhelming. They end proceedings with forthcoming single 'The King And All His Men', which I do enjoy, reminding me as it does of 80s synth dudes like Nick Kershaw, no bad thing. For me, the jury is out on this guy. He may have the potential to appear to a wider audience than OELSP, who seem to be a band that kids will love. One thing's for certain. The nation's radio stations are going to be hit with huge tidal wave of 80s synth music. Damn you, La Roux.

Continuing the theme, Newcastle/Kent act Everything Everything make a surprise last minute inclusion to the bill at Night And Day, and I am befuddled by them. I'm not the only one, I think. I don't even know where to begin. There's something of the cod-African guitar work of Foals, the dissonant jerky beats of Aphex Twin, and the pop sensibility of Duran Duran in their song My KZ, UR BF. You can hear the North East influence of bands like The Futureheads and Maximo Park in there somewhere too, I think. It's too much for my ears to take in in one go, like a Friday night in 1984 refracted through the lens of some very strong drugs. They're signed to XL subsidiary Salvia, their first single 'Suffragette Suffragette' is out in November, they're easily the weirdest of tonight's synth wave, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Music Go Music, Night and Day

Finally, the band I have been waiting for all night, Los Angeles' 5 piece Music Go Music. I've sort of fallen in love with their Myspace songs, with their perfect mixture of 70s disco influences, which come together to create pop perfection. Mostly, that means they sound almost exactly like Blondie, and I love Blondie, so I'm a happy boy. And somewhere in the bar, DJ and superstar producer Mark Ronson is watching, surely a celebriy endorsement that can do them no harm.

Resplendent in a white waistcoat and all black leotard, lead singer Gala Bell looks and wiggles a bit like Roisin Murphy, as the band crank into action with the first number 'I Walk Alone'. The combination of boy rock and girl vocals is intoxicating. If they ever get anywhere, I suspect Bell will have herself quite a few male (and probably many female) fans. They look like a band from LA, an odd, mismatched bunch with bassist (Torg) looking like Neil from the Young Ones, the guitarist looks like Neil Young after a hard night's drinking, and keyboardist Kamer Maza may have escaped from The Killers. This makes them very, very cool.


Sadly they ruin this by playing 'Light Of Love', which sounds a lot like Abba. And I hate Abba, because they sort of stole my first name and ruined Primary school for me. Thankfully Gala Bell smiles and shimmies like Karen O, and all is forgiven, and they take on the 60s psychedelia of Reach Out, which helps a lot, brilliant as it is. They end on the high note of their best song 'Caught In The Shadows' (http://vimeo.com/5944494) , which boogies with the funk of a glitterball, extending it to triple dip on the wonderful chorus, augmenting it with some incredible guitar soloing, and the crowd, myself included, are up and dancing, hardened music journalist that I am. And if they can melt the heart of hardened industry bods on a night like tonight, Music Go Music can surely do anything.

http://www.myspace.com/ouestleswimmingpool
http://www.myspace.com/almeidagirl
http://www.myspace.com/thisiswolfgang
http://www.myspace.com/musicgomusic

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday night, In The City


Wow. So I survived it. 3 days of bands, talk, and interviewing. My brain is friend, and my body is broken. Just got back an hour ago from seeing May68 and The Drums at Night And Day.

May68 were a band in the making, still finding their way, defining their sound and identity. The lead singer had obviously styled herself on Karen O, and the songs were lacking a dynamic quality, a clear distinction between verses and choruses, to give them a sense of direction. They were good though, and got better as the performance went on, and they're definitely ones to watch on the local scene, following in the electo footsteps of Delphic and The Whip.

Florida via NYC'sThe Drums had been hyped to high heaven as the band to go and see. Their myspace and the little press they'd done suggested they are in the same lineage as early Factory bands, and they'd obviously done their homework in this respect, but they left me cold, leaving me with a feeling that they were incredibly cynical, and had put together their look and sound in order to be 'cool', and hip according to a music scene / press definition, but weren't actually that good. Members of the audience told me that they were brilliant on their current E.P.but I refuse to buy it. The whole thing stank of the emperor's new clothes to me, so I left to fight, and write another day.

It's now time to sleep before writing up my interview with Mark Ronson, and the performance of The Dead Weather at the Academy on Monday. Nite!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

In The City : Sunday 18th DAY ONE

Ok chaps and ladies. It is that time of year again, here in Manchester. Delegates from all around the world gather at the prestigious Midland Hotel to discuss the future, past and present of the music industry, as well as watch 150 bands.

It will be time to run off and catch said bands in a moment for yours truly, but for now, a quick word on the 2 debates I managed to see. Firstly 'Licence To Ill; Digital Licencing, How Do We Build a Future' was a fascinating debate, with the CEO of We7 Steve Purdham, and James Healy from Universal, among others, contributing. It was fascinating to learn the various issues and structures behind licencing music to the likes of Napster, Amazon, We7, Spotify, Last.FM etc., and how incredibly difficult and disorganised this sector is - no wonder people many people don't pay for their music when the various commercial offerings from the music industry are only now beginning to develop a competitive market, with a variety of options.

Far more full of anecdotes was 'God Show Me Magic: The Story Of Creation Records', which was chaired by Radio 6's Steve Lemacq, with contributions from the labels' former MD, and Mark Garndener of the creation band Ride. It was crazy to hear how Mark once played as the keyboardist in Primal Scream on Top OF the Pops because the original keyboardist Duffy hadn't applied for his musician's union card, or how fisticuff fights took place in the labels' Hackney HQ.

Anyway, I'm off to catch Ou Est La Swimming Pool, Kirsty Almedia, Wolf Gang and Music Go Music. Hopefully, that is........

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Editors 'In This Light And On This Evening' (Kitchenware Records).


Geography. Whether it's Lou Reed and David Bowie channelling the sound of Berlin as perceived through a drug induced stupor in the early 70s, the Smiths' bittersweet poetry about cemeteries and school bullying in the grim industrial Manchester of the 80s, the modern city has always provided a muse for the artist.

And so it is with Editors third album, 'In This Light....' . Lead singer, lyricist and chief miserablist Tom Smith has moved south from his native Birmingham, in with Radio One DJ Edith Bowman, experiencing parenthood and domestic bliss. On this record he channels the narcotic rush of the capital through lyrics of wonder “On this life and in this evening, London is the most beautiful thing I've seen” ; and fears of overwhelm (“damn this place makes a boy out of me”). This is surely a new range in his emotional vocabulary, but fans need not worry, his voice still has the haunting quality of Ian Curtis, and the lyrics overall still aim for a note of portentous melancholy that had defined the band up to now, as the singer curses god for not existing on current single 'Papillion', and the passing of youthful passion on 'You Don't Know Love'. Occasionally, the results sound forced and silly, as on the latter, which begins “You ran with the dead today, with the moles from the CIA”. But for the most part, it works.

Sonically, the band as whole strike of daringly in a new direction, experimenting with a new palette of sounds apparently taken from 80s movie soundtracks like Bladerunner and Terminator, and yes, Joy Division / early New Order. Melodies played out on atmospheric synths rather than guitars, and beats chiming on the tinny sound of drum machines may alienate those used to Editors 1.0, but the production by Mark 'Flood' Ellis ensures a 'Live' quality to the electronica, which is not ruined by being overly sequenced and quantised, retaining instead an organic feel.

Let's be clear. Editors have divided critics, some of whom have accused them of sounding like a modern, commercially acceptable version of Joy Division (and having beaten to it by Interpol by several years, for that matter), and this record will do nothing to refute those accusations for listeners unwilling to appreciate the innovation of this record, particularly its' referencing of 80s synth music by the likes of Vangelis. Such accusations miss the point ; if we are to see Oasis as a poor mans' Beatles, The Strokes as a poor mans' Velvet Underground, and the Libertines as a poor mans' Strokes, pretty soon we'd be left with no music at all.

Fans, despite their fear of change from the tested formula of Editors' earlier work, may listen to this record with kinder and more patient ears, and will find themselves pleasantly surprised I suspect, after the initial shock of new. 'In This Light' is a grower, which will reward on repeated listening.

Abbas Ali

4/5

In The City - 18th-20th October

OK, peeps, so here we go. Manchester's world famous music conference In The City returns this weekend on Sunday, for a 3 day extravaganza of new music, debate, and record deals for those luck enough to impress the labels. Originally started by Tony Wilson and his wife Yvette Lyvsey in 1992, it has been dubbed the world's greatest unsigned event, and helped in the process of getting deals for the likes of Oasis, Coldplay, The Chemical Brothers and Arctic Monkeys.

This year, the highlights will include a debate between reknowned journalist and broadcaster John Harris, and formerly ubiquitous trombone merchant Mark Ronson and MD of his label Columbia Records, Mike Smith. There are some incredibly exciting bands on including my personal recommendations Blondie-soundalikes Music Go Music, Scotlands' Frightened Rabbit and 80s London synth pop dude Wolf Gang. To be honest, I've only just managed to scrape the surface of a long list, and have found these 3 to be excellent, but I am sure there are many more great bands on the long list of bands to be featured on the event.

I am going to be posting some reviews of the acts for God Is In The TV Zine, and will most likely post some blog news from / during the event.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Karima Francis : The Deaf Institute 25/03/09


Hi, after neglecting this baby for a while, I'm going to be posting a few things on here, me thinks. Starting with a review of Karima Francis, back in March of this year....

Karima Francis - The Deaf Institute,“Keeping it real”. Isn't that what music's all about? Opening your heart and soul to the world and showing them who you 'Really' are? As a newly emerging singer Karima Francis, steps on stage to hushed silence, capturing the hearts and ears of the audience in the opening bars of tonight's first song “The Author”, the title track of her d├ębut album, she reveals herself with an openness with is unflinching and brave. Her highly anticipated appearance at this triumphant homecoming gig turns the room from a noisy bar-room to attentive audience instantaneously. The tension and drama of this opening number is only briefly ruined by a Dom Joly-inspired idiot in the centre of the capacity 300-strong crowd who get a call and decides to take it, to the ire of onlookers.

As the delicate sensitivity of 'The Author' is followed by current single 'Again', with its' strong chorus, her 4-piece male accompanying band begin to rock, albeit gently, and the clear commercial potential of Francis' proposition becomes evident. Fitting somewhere in the lineage of Britain's recent slew of young female vocalists, this is emotive, soulful pop music, without the drug-addled self-harm of Amy Winehouse , or the pouting tabloid-friendly blondeness of Duffy. It may be hearing it's last performance on a small scale, but her star is clearly in the ascendant, as she delivers music of the kind that could easily soundtrack Romcoms or fill stadiums.
Looking round at the varied mix of Manchester's beautiful people, with her family assembled on the balcony, one can feel the sense of occasion tonight. It is the week of the album and single launch for 21 year old Blackpool-born Francis, and there is an urgency and heartfelt passion in her voice that won't be denied. If her fragile, androgynous Bob Dylan-esque figure and her voice intimates otherwordliness and star quality, it's completely at odds with her down to earth persona. In between songs, she chats to the audience like a friend amongst friends (many of tonights audience undoubtedly are), talking openly about how her life is changing as fame ensues, with a mixture of what feels like trepidation and excitement. Sharing news of her support slot with the Stereophonics on the Teenage Cancer Trust bill at the Royal Albert Hall, she also tell us of a forthcoming slot on Later....with Jools Holland.”I'm on the same show as Carole King....Shit the bed!”

Halfway into the evening, she introduces an acoustic cover of Kings of Leon's 'Use Somebody', she questions herself for choosing a non-original song. “Guess this means I'm fake doesn't it?” she says, smiling self-effacingly. Her life and the company she keeps may be changing, but she has nothing to worry about there : Francis may be pop, but she's the real deal.

Setlist:

The Author

Again
Use Somebody (cover)
Morse Code
Francis
Chasing the Morning Light
Hold You Again
Laurel Avenue
Remember your Name (encore)