The Islington Metal Works is a somewhat strange venue, as you enter from the street past the merchandise table on the right, the performance space is a rectangular room painted entirely in black and dimly lit, so dimly in fact that it takes more than a few moments to acclimatize and realise that the bar is located next door also discreetly hidden.
We have gathered to witness the launch of Liv Austen's album "A Moment Of Your Time", there has already been a discreet playback event and initial word of mouth has been very good for an album that seems to have been a long time in coming with just the tease of a few singles to keep us satiated in the meantime.
It would have been easier to fill the supporting bill with lesser artists to make herself shine all the brighter, so full praise to Liv for packing the evening with top quality talent who each made a strong impact on the night. Opening the show was Tally Spear, it was a first sighting for us of Tally however unlikely to be our last as she made a great impact in her short five song set. Armed with just her acoustic guitar and initially appearing behind a veritable pea souper provided by the stage dry ice machine she opened with the uptempo rocky "Scatterbrain". Next came the rocky sounding "City Girl", during which you could not help but notice her habit of slightly squishing her nose on the microphone! It was yet another strong song and by the time of the third, the excellent "Wasted" for which she also donned a harmonica we were completely enthralled. It was excellently delivered as was the next song "Loud Enough" which had a suitably loud rocking chorus.
There was one brief nod back to her earlier released EP with the slower "Just Don't Know" though even this included some power chord strumming on the chorus.So a short set but definitely one that piqued our interest to see a lot more more.
Next up on the bill was Clara Bond with guitarist Ollie Harris providing superb support on electric guitar, who set things off with a slow delicate intro that would eventually turn into "Love Can't Stay". This version delivered in a slower more sultry manner. Next up came the forthcoming single "Does Your Girlfriend Know You're Single".
Having only Ollie's guitar to fall back on really let Clara explore some of material, "Tambourine" really benefited from a vocal that captured a certain vulnerability in its new slower surroundings. By Clara's own admission "Flashback" is that saddest song she has written and it has never sounded better.
There was to be a bold cover choice with Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" with nods of appreciation to Ollie for capturing that required essential guitar sound to accompany the great vocals. The set was to close with the ever excellent "Out Of Towners" followed by the song that impressed the team greatly at the recent Hackney show. Out of intense experiences can come the best creativity and Clara certainly feels strongly about the person that inspired "Crown", the best thing to come out of it would seem to be that it has inspired an excellent song.
One hopes that the future EP will make good on our prediction made at Buckle & Boots that Clara has all the attributes to make a big breakthrough.
The main event is to celebrate an album that seems to have been a long time in the making, but it is better to take your time than to rush it and always think that it could have been better. Tonight the band are dressed in black, which makes them almost disappear in the darkness of the venue, as they take to the small and slightly cramped stage to kick off the intro to introduce the star of the evening. In contrast, Liv takes to the stage and shines like a lighthouse in her white t-shirt knotted in one corner with the words "Thank You" in luminous letters and for reasons that were never really made apparent written back to front.
The big drum intro announced the start of the set, much like it does the album with the punchy "Miss Nobody" and led into a nice rocky sounding "Part Time Sweetheart" with Liv clearly loving every second.
The set had a bit of everything, there was the uptempo dance rhythms of "Train Of Thought" with its "Whoa whoa" chorus through to "Whole Heart" which saw some frantic attempts to get the microphone to stay in place so that Liv could add some additional keyboards.
The essence of what shows Liv at her best came in the closing spell of the main set, the ever reliable "Don't Regret A Single One", announced with its fuzzy guitar intro, the sheer drama of "Detour" as the band gradually built to a stunning finale before letting Liv deliver the final few lines, and the perfect pop of "The Next Time" aided and abetted by an ever willing audience.
The first encore was the first performance of "But I Know I Love Him" for just Liv and her guitarist Jon Wright, and was worth the price of admission alone with Liv singing at her very best. The band returned for the final song, the modern sassiness of "Window Shopping" bringing things to a satisfactory close.
With just a few minutes to get her breath back she was quickly meeting the assembled throng of dedicated well wishers, and signing copies of the new album.