w/ Jay Lewis/ Natalie McCool/
(Image: Jesca Hoop by Marie Hazelwood)
Jesca Hoop at Leaf was my first time at the venue, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As it turned out, the upper floor of the building was actually much larger than I imagined, and lavish in its decoration. You might think that hanging numerous disco balls from the ceiling would look tacky but somehow it worked, and my overall impression was that Leaf have put together an elegant and stylish venue.
The first support of the night was ex-La’s member Jay Lewis, who opened with his own blend of acoustic blues and quietly drew the attention of the crowd. His songs were very gentle however, and the introduction of bass, drums and a harmonica came just in time to remind the audience that there was a gig underway. Lewis proved to be an accomplished musician and the band’s music was certainly of a high standard, but in my opinion the songs proved too mellow to really captivate the crowd, and perhaps would have suited a more intimate location.
To be fair, had there had been less of a crowd, the venue would have accommodated an intimate gig, with chairs and tables set up in close proximity to the stage area. However the popularity of the night meant the majority of the audience were stood around this area, and it was fortunate that the second support band, with four members, proved dynamic enough to satisfy the listeners at the back of the room, myself included.
This was Natalie Mccool, who quickly demonstrated why she is making waves in the music industry, with a great voice and intricate, exciting songs like ‘America’, and her version of ‘Nightcall / A Real Hero’ from the film ‘Drive’. Mccool is definitely a talent and her band put on an excellent show. I felt that some of the songs could be a little more polished, and that perhaps the same could be said for Mccool’s stage presence, but these are the only criticisms I could level at a band that were extremely well received on the night, and deservedly so.
Jesca Hoop was next up, headlining the event as part of her tour promoting her new album ‘The House That Jack Built’. As such, we were treated to a selection of songs from the album, and they didn’t disappoint. Hoop seems to have a knack for writing catchy melodies with thoughtful lyrics, and it was no surprise that she provided a fantastically enjoyable gig. What did surprise me however, was the eccentricity of Jesca herself. Between songs she would chat to the crowd about topics such as her mormon upbringing, describing how she taught her mother to smoke pot, and about Liverpool, expressing her conviction that the word ‘scousers’ should be replaced by ‘Liverpuds’. At one point she even attempted an amusingly poor scouse accent but this only seemed to endear her to the crowd even more.
Jesca was accompanied by a guitarist, a drummer using an electronic drum pad, and a backing singer, which meant that much of the emphasis of the music was on the vocal abilities of Hoop, which are tremendous. Songs such as ‘Born To’ and ‘Hospital’ demonstrated her ability to belt out soulful tunes with passion, and her interactions with the audience allowed us to connect with her music much more closely than listening to a record. Jesca Hoop has forged some fantastic songs, and her album is one I intend to pick up, but if you get the chance to see her perform live, make sure to take it, as Jesca Hoop proved herself to be not just a talented musician, but also a woman who truly knows how to put on a show.
Words: Daniel Kirby
Photography: Marie Hazelwood
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