Princess Slayer / Jamie Lenman / Natalie Ross / CeCe [Live Review – The Boileroom, Guildford, 31/1/14]
The last couple of months have been a little quiet on the live review front – but this show marked the ideal moment to get back into the swing of things. As the Boileroom’s contribution to Independent Venue Week, it was guaranteed to be a stunner before the doors even opened; and it really goes without saying that the night was incredible, from start to finish. The evening’s entertainment was provided by:
Acts like CeCe never fail to make me kick myself for my relative lack of experience within / knowledge of Guildford’s local folk scene. CeCe’s set consisted of thirty minutes’ flamenco-tinged acoustic-driven luxury, complete with soaring falsetto, well-paced songs, plenty of dynamic variety, and a fascinating cover of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. What really struck me about CeCe’s performance was her level of professional focus; despite the usual acoustic-set crowd chatter and a couple of moronically incoherent heckles, she stayed on it and barely batted an eyelid. Considering that many performers would either crumble or go the full Bill Hicks in that position, CeCe deserves major kudos.
When it comes to trendy topics, it can often be difficult to tell whether or not a fan of beards, geeky glasses, or vintage lifestyle accessories is into whatever-it-is because it fits some deeply-treasured part of their personalities, or just because it’s the latest cool thing. One of the easiest ways to tell the difference is to ask this question: Does the person in question slavishly copy the trendy image down to the last detail, or do they go deeper and really make it their own?
When it comes to Natalie Ross, we’re definitely looking at the latter. Her songs are impressively catchy, full of Forties and Fifties-style vocal harmonies and the liberal use of digital effects (loops and harmonisation), that last addition providing the crucial creative flair necessary to push the envelope and differentiate Ross from other acts going the cool-and-quirky route. Image-wise, Natalie Ross has it sorted – not a hair out of place, every inch the quantum-leaping postwar pin-up – and her stage presence is, well, more than merely present. Charmingly tongue-in-cheek commentary peppered the set (and occasionally songs), along with plenty of confident crowd banter – all adding up to an act that drew more and more audience members in as it progressed. Next time there’ll surely be more people turning up early to see Natalie Ross play.
Sets like this are extremely problematic for a reviewer. A truly great performance is something that quite frequently cannot be described adequately in words. Watching a world-class live act inevitably results in three things: An ecstatically rapturous experience during the actual set; a collection of hurriedly-iPhoned notes; and an extremely slow review-writing process during which the writer (who isn’t supposed to waffle on about himself when you, the interesting, deeply intelligent, and no doubt sexually attractive reader, could be reading literally anything else) tries not to resort to mind-numbingly tired clichés of the kind usually found on Hollywood movie posters.
There is, mercifully, one word that sums up the third set of the evening. Intimate. More than anything, Jamie Lenman’s set was extraordinarily emotional, and simultaneously social. It was impossible to not get swept up in each and every moment; whether opening with first Memory track Shotgun House, high-fiving old friends in the crowd, visibly excavating painful cognitive events for the raw and honest I Ain’t Your Boy, or bringing his wife Katie onstage for a series of captivatingly harmonised duets, Jamie Lenman displayed all of the qualities upon which his local-legend status was built. Love, passion, humour, energy, and expertly crafted songs performed with no-nonsense directness. There’s really nothing more you could ask for from a live act. Fucking beautiful.
The last time we ran into Princess Slayer at the Boileroom, they were playing to a room packed with punters lapping up their every note. This time around, the crowd was a little sparser and gearing up for their first-ever Princess Slayer experience; an intimidating situation for any band, and one that Princess Slayer tackled with a professional and well-drilled approach. Forced to up the energy level, Princess Slayer performed admirably, winning the crowd over with a set-long dance competition (rewarded periodically by free CDs awarded to those with the best moves) and their brilliant full-band EDM show.
As we’ve come to expect from Princess Slayer, this was a great headlining set – but the second time around, it became apparent that their cover of Miley Cyrus’ hit Wrecking Ball is (unusually for a band still on their first EP) actually a weak spot. That song with the video where the naked girl licks the sledgehammer pales in comparison to the originals on offer, despite being subject to a formidable rearrangement. It’s really rare to say this about a band in the early stages, but Princess Slayer’s originals are that good. The sooner we hear fresh Princess Slayer, the better. That said, the playing, stage presence, and original songs were all awesome. Overall, a great show.
Princess Slayer: https://www.facebook.com/PrincessSlayerOfficial
Jamie Lenman: http://www.jamielenman.com/
Natalie Ross: http://www.natalieross.co.uk/
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