Deprived of a cellist tonight, Newcastle’s Martha Hill is backed only by drummer Diji Solanke, but such is the wealth of talent between the two, it doesn’t affect what is a cracking set. ‘Mary Jane,’ a folk tale about an arsonist, is soulful and playful, displaying an almost Arctic Monkeys-like swagger. There’s a touch of Winehouse to the poppier numbers, Hill oozing confidence as Solanke keeps the beat and provides glimpses of his talent for human beatboxing. After more sombre numbers like ‘Surrender’ and the soulful jazz of ‘Blindfold,’ ‘Before I Go‘ is a more upbeat track about going on a “sesh” and not wanting to go home. It allows Hill to branch out, freed from the restraints of the acoustic, rocking out with poise and owning the stage. And by the end, nobody wants her to go home either.
There’s no shortage of artists doing the looping thing these days, but few are quite as accomplished at it as Jayne Dent is tonight. As Me Lost Me I Lost My, she’s a one-woman band, creating multi-layered tracks of vocals, guitars, concertinas and microphone induced beats. Tracks like the traditional ‘When You’re Born’ and the wintery soundscape of ‘Time To Thaw’ are quite mesmerising, raising the temperature and taking songs further than one musician should have any right to. Labelling is difficult and that’s always a good thing. It’s folk, but not as Dent’s father might call it, as she jokingly points out. New track ‘Eyes And Ohs’ from her forthcoming debut album is as experimental as it gets whilst another traditional folk track, ‘Chamber Bed’ builds to an almighty crescendo and climax. There’s a great degree of ambience and Jayne’s voice alone would be captivating enough. Layered as it is to create a choir effect, it’s nothing short of magical.
It’s a bold move for Let’s Eat Grandma to head out on tour prior to the release of their new album, ‘I’m All Ears’, and it’s a bolder move to open the set with five straight tracks from said album. Newly backed by a live drummer, lead single ‘Hot Pink’ is quite stunning, showcasing a new louder and more structured Let’s Eat Grandma. It’s all Charli XCX-style pop, abrasive and full of hooks and an instant chorus. In other words, it’s clearly very different to what we might have expected from the two girls from Norwich. ‘It’s Not Just Me’ is poppier again; the tall slim Rosa Walton and petite Jenny Hollingworth stood fast at their mutual keyboards, trading vocals, fixing the audience with subtle glances.
By the synth-heavy third track ‘Falling Into Me,’ it’s clear that we are seeing Let’s Eat Grandma Mk II, yet there are some traits remaining from the duo of old. And when I say old, I mean from the seventeen-year-olds who ripped up the rulebook of pop with their intriguingly brilliant debut record, ‘I Gemini’. There’s Rosa’s drunk-style bedroom dancing, skipping around the stage in her tracksuit bottoms, still retaining the energy of youth now that she must be all of nineteen. Jenny straps on her sax for the first time but then there’s the change. Perfectly in key, it fits the song; Jenny’s playing deft and tuneful. This isn’t the same duo who would throw instruments into a melting pot and see what spells they could conjure up. It doesn’t take the song in another direction entirely; it is part and parcel of the song. And somehow it feels like something is missing