These days the word "intimate" is a little overused, even shows at Wembley Arena are "Intimate In The Round" shows - well tonight we are returning to the words roots with a show at Blacks Club in deepest Soho at the invite of Society Of The Golden Slippers in a show that will make the Green Note seem like the O2!.This may all sound a little Sherlock Holmes but it is true and the Society have had an impressive roll call of acts play before them since their inception in 2010, including the likes of The Civil Wars, Jake Bugg and Lisa Marie Presley to pick just three from a list of a hunded or so performers and twice a month they gather to peruse the great and good of upcoming acts - the booking policy seems eclectic, and not tied to any genre per se - the main qualification seems to be - be good!!
Entrance into Blacks is appropriately enough through a big black door and #TEAMw21 are guided to the first floor while the sound check completes. It comprises of two rooms one housing a tiny yet well stocked bar where the customers have to shuffle around to give the barman access to the wine fridge, and a further room of chairs, tables and sofas for general lounging.
There's no actual announcement that the soundcheck is complete but seeing as Ivy from Charm Of Finches is mingling with us in the bar it seemed safe to climb the next flight of stairs and take a seat in tonights venue. The room is the size of large domestic front room, the windows are covered with thick blue curtains that keep most but not all of the evenings bright light out, the walls are a similar shade of blue and are adorned with paintings of butterflies that look like they could be for sale. The floor is polished wooden boards mainly covered by a rug that has long since seen a pattern and 5 or so rows of three chairs are tightly squeezed each side of the aisle. The room is barely lit be one dim bulb and the temperature is best definitely steamy!. A keyboard and a guitar are set up in the performing space which would best be described as minimal, with a couple of speakers set to provide all the amplification we will need.
It was to be a night of sibling acts as the evening commenced with a set from The Black Lilys, a brother / sister duo hailing from France, who had to perform a cross between a limbo dancer and a contortionist to actually reach their stage positions. Once there, Robin would provide atmospheric acoustic guitar making full use of his echo facility to great effect, while Camille in her big bowed blouse would fire out chords on the piano while providing dreamy raspy occasionally Bjorky style vocals. It all made for a great little set and there was something quaint about hearing the rallying call to the change the pace of the song as "Un deux trois"
"Woman Wolf" would start with Robin's clipped guitar, while Camille would carefully accentuate the song with expressive hand gestures until keyboard duties called. Undoubtedly the best moment was that combination of sibling harmonies which lifted things to another level.
There then followed one of the lost moments in popular music as the Robin took to the piano while Camille hand held the microphone for their rendition of "Gymnopedie" which takes Erik Satie's tune ( you'd know it !!) and adds words to it like
"They found my heart once in the landfill - bleeding"
Sadly it wasn't to be on the night with Robin not feeling the right notes to play. Having played this perfectly on the stage at the Royal Albert Hall, it must have been a combination of the intense heat and the intensity of the crowd sitting millimetres from where he was playing that was a little off putting.
Announcing that they'd play "Our big hit!" - "Nightfall", Robin once again built up the atmospherics. Two thirds in there was something of musical change with guitar, piano and Camille's vocals all getting louder
"Did I do somerthing wrong?" being the prevailing line coming over the increased sound, The set would close with "Yalakta", with Camille singing over Robin's gentle acoustic guitar, It saw Camille occasionally tapping her heart on the line that mentioned "my heart" while otherwise playing with her bow. It all made for a wonderfully good humoured, hypnotic show that sets the scene for their debut album to follow later in the year.
During the months since we last saw Charm Of Finches, they have toured the Europe including three weeks in Sweden and if we thought they were good in Milton Keynes then tonight in the hot clammy Soho atmosphere they were sublime. The set seemed elevated to another level from all of those weeks of playing together.
Dressed in blue. thankfully not matching the background too much they managed to dazzle and delight. Opening with "Concentrate On Breathing", Mabel's guitar work seemed even more crisp and perfect than before. Ivy as ever, wonderfully expressive with her hand actions before joining in on tambourine for the second verse, with the sisters just occasionally flashing each other a glance. As with the Black Lily's it is when those sibling harmonies join forces that something truly magical happens and there is something captivating watching Ivy's hand gently fall as the last note is approached.