The economics of the current music scene make doing a double header tour a no brainer, and is something we’ll undoubtedly see more of throughout 2017. The latest tour in this format to hit London was the Lucy May / Jeannine Barry extravaganza, a 5 date tour covering Glasgow, Nottingham, Newcastle & Manchester before landing at The Islington.
In a bid to offer outstanding value for money there was not only one support artist but two. Opening the evening was our first chance to see Rebecca Jayne.
Taking to the stage with just her guitar, she kept us entertained with a great stage presence and an array of songs that marked her as one that we will be watching out for in the future for sure. Opening with "Rock & Roll" from her excellent self titled EP, she displayed a strong voice as well as some confident guitar playing. Her forthcoming single, about traveling, appropriately named "Traveling Song" also sounded on first listen that it will bring her attention from a wider audience. Things slowed a little for the ballad "Bittersweet", a gently picked tune that was beautifully sung. An unexpected cover followed in the shape of "That's Alright Mama" that really demonstrated the versatility in her voice , before closing out with her first ever single, "I Want More", which was exactly how we felt at the end.
There was also a chance to see Ben Smith and Jimmy Brewer for the first time. Definitely from the folkier end of the spectrum they performed their set atop two rickety looking seats which added a little jeopardy to the evening! Dressed as if they might have a follow on appointment giving a lecture for the Open University, they proceeded to delight with both their guitar playing, their harmonies and all round good humour.
Starting with “Isabella” from their debut EP, the immediate power of the twin guitars became apparent, and the two voices in unison were hugely engaging from the off. The second song about someone in depression behind the seemingly jolly title “A Lovely Day For Doing Nothing” painted the picture of someone living off only delivered food. Ben and Jimmy have a line in weather songs!, the first a relatively newish one “Life’s Too Short ( to get down about the weather)”, was up tempo good time music that got a very warm reception.
The set continued to get better and better, “Shade Of Blue” was my personal favourite from the evening, though “Love You Forever” seemed to get the best audience response. Their songs had just the right balance of humour against pathos, “Better Than Your Father” was a prime example of that. The second of their weather related songs, “Blow Wind Blow” had a beautifully high pitched chorus, while the closing song “Julietta” came with some great guitar work. They’ve just been added to the Midwinterfest bill for 2018, which is a pretty ringing endorsement of the quality they possess.
Part One of the main event saw Jeannine Barry take to the stage in a tartan shirt, and black shorts to give an excellent performance. The Islington can be a bit of a nightmare when bands get loud, but tonight they were pitched exactly right, the singers not having to fight against their backing. Jeannine’s set dipped into her various EP’s starting with “Off The Hook”, the title track was followed with “Lonely Road” which had some lovely guitar touches from Harry Phillips on guitar. The heartbreak “Carousel” saw Jeannine hitting some stunning notes in the finale, while the ever heartfelt “Us Or Drinking” is always an emotional rollercoaster.
To lift the pace a little, there was a cover of Lucie Silvas’s “Letter To Ghosts”, before playing a new song which has been dusted off “Under Stars”. It was only towards the end that we got to hear some songs from the excellent recently released “Bittersweet” EP, the minimalistic “Burning Bridges” was made excellent by some lovely backing vocals. Once again, the pace was lifted with “Long Hot Summer” really suiting the somewhat sweltering conditions inside The Islington before things closed with “Bittersweet”, which was exceptionally good, this was probably the best show I’ve seen from Jeannine.
Taking to the stage in a black and gold dress, it was immediately clear that Lucy was in fine form, as we were to see for the first time with a full backing band. As with Jeannine the excellent band were the perfect backing allowing Lucy to just concentrate on singing. The set was largely based around her debut album “Whirlwind” although we were to get a couple of glimpses of what will be on the follow up release. “Hooked On Your Love” got things started, to be followed by “Keep your Hands Off My Man” which has never sounded better especially with the funky basslines laid down by the striking bass player KT Olivia Parker who was positively beaming throughout the evening. The band during both sets were exemplary Matt Kitto on drums was neat and unfussy while Lucy’s familiar sidekick Paul Morhen on acoustic guitar seemed to marshal the band with little more than a knowing look. The band really brought some of the songs to life, “Paper Heart”, was made exceptional with just the addition of some backing vocals, while “Looking Out The Window” was reinterpreted into a sort of shuffle with Lucy striking a pose holding the microphone in one hand while leaning on the mic stand with the other arm.
Our first glimpse of the new material came in the shape of “Counting The Days” which came with a soulful vibe that definitely suited Lucy’s voice. “Don’t Wake Me Up” had The Islington clapping along while for “Hole In My Heart”, it was left to just Paul and Lucy to reduce the crowd to silence. To go from the silence to the full onslaught of “Whirlwind” was more like being hit with a hurricane of sound! Lucy chose to close her set with another glimpse of material for the forthcoming album due for release hopefully in December, with another song owing more than a touch to the Sixties soul area, “Little By Little” certainly whetted the appetite for what was to come.
There was one last surprise to close out the tour as Jeannine returned to the stage for a duet on the Nashville song “A Life That’s Good” bringing the curtain down on a wonderful evening. As with Jeannine earlier I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Lucy on better form