Isabella Coulstock / Niall McNamee - The Green Note
There is always a danger in seeing the same artist at the same venue in relatively quick succession - what can seem amazing first time round somehow loses its lustre with repeated viewings. This is our third sighting of Isabella Coulstock at the Green Note in less than six months and if anything she seems to get better each time - first of all she has plenty of material so there is no danger of staleness - each show has contained something that wasn't present in the others, secondly the quality in her performance each time has been impeccable.
Due to tortuous traffic en route to London, Isabella was forced to do her soundcheck in front of the audience which was probably a little off putting although it did give us a chance to hear a snippet of "Wichita Lineman" played on the piano which was sublime, possibly the only disappointment of the night was the fact that it never made it into the final show. Tonight's Talentbanq extravaganza was a chance to celebrate the release of Isabella's first cd - a 5 track epic that for the moment is only available to purchase in person at shows - it is the first tiny step into getting the word out to the world of just how talented this lady is.
Taking to the stage and immediately launching into "Nice Ain't A Good Colour For Me", you instantly remember what you get with Isabella, a singer who always looks happy to be playing on stage, guitar playing of the highest order and consistently a high vocal performance. On Isabella's EP "Broken" her Chaz Jankel co write is magnificent with additional strings on it, yet somehow the extra frisson caused by playing in front of an audience saw Isabella lift it to another level,with that additional zest in the guitar playing. Isabella introduces the song "Borderline" with an introduction explaining its origins being about the sad demise of her dog saying "the things we love in life leave us a little too soon". The performance is outstanding, with Isabella tilting her head back slightly as she sings the title to the song - and stripped away from the introduction, the song is actually as much about Isabella as it is her dog, and when people eventually get to hear it - many will find their own solace in their own interpretation of the lyrics we suspect.
It was over to the piano for a couple more songs from the EP - first "Who Do You Think you Are?" which simply demanded your attention, the drama in that "I want you I need you I love you" line is transferred into the playing which becomes quite forceful. The intensity follows through into "Better Than That" - with a sublime vocal . There is certainly no fear of anyone preparing to "leave just a little too soon" in fact the audience was collectively still as if holding their breath hanging on every word. Isabella releases the tension by flashing a little smile as the song comes to an end.
A return to the guitar for "Fast" sees Isabella indulge in some head down no nonsense guitar playing which is quite a sight to see, The second of Isabella's Chaz Jankel co writes "The Road" once again grips from the very start with its intricate guitar introduction right through to the marvelous sustained notes which see Isabella's vocals shift through the gears with an effortless ease. There was time for a brand new song "The Break Up Song" which was much cheerier than the title might suggest - and definitely had a modern pop country feel to it.
Not sure if is the subject matter but each time we hear "The Riverside" it is profoundly moving, despite it being a total fiction created by Isabella's imagination. Isabella first sets the mood, quite lightheartedly referring to "making things up" while playing the guitar intro which perfectly sets the tone for the what at first seems to be a slightly kooky concept. A few minutes later you find yourself hanging on Isabella's every word as she outlines the stories of the various spirits that have gathered at "The Riverside", each beautifully created with just a well crafted sentence. Once again the audience were truly deathly silent.
A return to the piano for the fourth song from the new EP, "Living In A Country Song", once again was another special moment that only gets created when there is a special bond created between artist and audience. Having fulfilled her promise to deliver an EP for this show, Isabella then went one step further by announcing a forthcoming single would soon be with us called "Trouble", which on first listen sounded like a superior piece of uptempo pop country. More new material would follow with "Never Here For Long" which seems set to be another classic - with an immediate attention grabbing line in the chorus "nothing feels the same now you're gone and you weren't here for long". It was just one of what seemed like many quotable lines in a song you could not wait to immediately hear again with even it's co creator saying "Wow" on hearing it live for the first time.
The home straight took us back to already established favourites, "Honky Tonk Beer" allowed the Green Note audience to find their voices - having spent much of the night in rapt silence they were suddenly in party mode, while Isabella's first ever song "Crazy Cowboy" still sounds fresh despite having been written at the tender age of 13. The encore section would see another song for which #TEAMw21 have high hopes ( although in truth that is probably true of every Isabella song ) is "Revolution" - it is truly anthemic and seemingly just needing a sympathetic production to make that transition from an acoustic performance at the Green Note to a recorded version known and loved across the nation, One final bonus encore saw Isabella sing the unlikely story of having her man stolen by another woman - but as we were in party mood we'll forgive a rousing version of "Jolene" - it sent the audience off into the Camden night with a smile on their faces and a cd in their hand. It seems we'll have to come back again for "Wichita Lineman!".
The evening had started with a rousing set from Niall McNamee - who would prove to be a multi skilled singer, actor, comedian and raconteur! He opened with "When She Goes" stirring and wordy there was lots to absorb, let alone the chorus which had elements that were high pitched and others that were almost shouted.
A past relationship was recalled in "The Rose Of Marylebone" which came with a lengthy hilarious introduction that Niall ended with a wistful look in his eye . It was full of little personal details and looks set to be a stand out track on his debut album due later in the year.
There was an anti war song in the shape of "All I Need" - shot through the prism of a separated couple. Always a risk from a support act is the audience participation element and for "Falling In Love For The Day", Niall not only got the audience singing but even dropped the volume of his guitar playing just to hear the crowd singing along - which fortunately they were.
Niall's introduction to "The Clones Fireman" was both moving and hilarious at the same time - it was a tribute to his Grandad and came with a slew of fast delivered lyrics as he captured a life story in a song
The set would close with Niall revealing he was shortly to appear in a film that has already garnered a good reception and seemed set to do well. The film is called "Love Without Walls" and is due out in June - with Niall's character in the movie being a failed singer songwriter who is learning "The Knowledge", the trials that aspiring London black cab drivers go through, in case things don't work out. This then led to writing a song for the movie called "The Knowledge".
It was a combination of all that had gone previous, lots of tiny details in the fast delivered verses with a beautifully haunting chorus going to make a great song. Definitely a name that it seem we are destined to hear much more of in 2023 as his various projects start to materialise.
Photographs used with kind permission of John Gillespie