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  • Writer's pictureCHRIS FARLIE

Jenny Colquitt / Rachel Croft - 229 The Venue London

It's Friday night in London, and another wonderful Talentbanq presentation allows us to see one emerging talent playing in the metropolis for the first time with her band, and at the same time introduces us to another who seems destined to attract our attention in the upcoming months.

Taking to the stage first was Rachel Croft, dressed in black, an almost amazonian presence, toweringly tall even allowing for her boots. She will play an electric guitar for much of the set, with her immaculately long white polished nails.

The set will open with "Only Dreams", which has something of a Chris Isaak vibe circa "Wicked Games". It's those gently picked out guitar notes and Rachels vocal delivery that veer from the downbeat to bursts of activity that swirl around 229 the create an etheral atmosphere. It is highly effective and captivating - and 229's investment in a new smoke machine sees it billowing out, as Rachel sings, all adding to the overall presentation. It is six minutes long yet holds the attention throughout.

It is followed by another jaw dropping performance with her "James Bond pastiche", "Reap What You Sow". Once again it sees Rachel delicately pluck out each note, her face bathed in white light as she opens with the most withering of remarks, her delivery coming with a sort of Grace Jones timbre

"You're a bitter little man"

Occasionally the Rachel will, burst out into the purest, most soulful blues voice - it all adds up to be a most spellbinding performance with Rachel finishing by firing her hand out towards the audience as if scattering seeds.

There is more to Rachel than brooding atmospherics and "Hurricane" saw the pace pick up considerably in comparison. Based around "letting go and wanting to leave" it was inspired by moving from York to London. It still retained a real Americana feel about it and those plaintive "You've got to let me go"'s and the "So it goes"'s kept the viewer hanging on each line.

The last of Rachel's electric numbers "A Devil By Any Other Name" was introduced as being full of Shakespeare misquotes - which is an intruiging premise as it offers the audience the chance not just to enjoy the song but to prove how erudite they feel by how many quotes they can spot!

An enjoyable mid tempo tune that showed off many of Rachel's vocal talents, as well as her ability to whistle, it was a joy.

A switch to an acoustic guitar also seemed to trigger a change in vocal and playing style - with a move to using a plectrum rather than "shredding her nails" and the vocals a more gentle sustained singing approach - equally affecting and absorbing, The song came with a lovely wordy chorus that worked wonderfully.

Her final song "Roots" opens atmospherically to some Celtic Clannad style crying to set the scene of a storm which it does surprisingl well. The pace increases and the acoustic guitar takes a bit of a bashing from some strident guitar playing and at one point Rachel turns into a head on nonsense rocker, with her hair flying forward leaving her with just one eye visible, As introductions go this was about as good as it gets.

For Jenny Colquitt this 8 date UK tour was ostensibly to be a chance to bring her excellent new ep "Lost Animals" to life with a full band, it also offered, across 2 sets, the opportunity to explore all of her catalogue and would offer songs old and new as well as an unexpected cover. It would also afford the 229 lighting team a chance to show off their new investment with one of the best lighting effects #TEAMw21 has seen in years!!!. Taking to the stage after Rachel did make Jenny initially seem diminutive but that soon disappeared as her guitar opened "How Do You Feel?" - with the 229 smoke machine in such full effect that Jeny felt the need to blow some of it away to let her see the mic!. As the band kick in there is clearly a balance to be made, this show will not have the intimacy of a solo show nor can it hope to match the production values of Jenny's recorded outfit - this will be a hybrid somewhere in between, where some songs are enhamcd and others maybe less so, either way it it happy enjoyable hybrid that will clock in not far short of 2 hours. For "How Do You Feel?" there is a trade off between the subtlety of the record against the sheer energy of a live show - one constant between either that shines through, is Jenny's vocal performance.

The first song of "Lost Animals" to be played is "Open Pages" which sees excellent work all round, The sound man capturing and bringing Jenny's acoustic to the front of the mix, the guitarist making full use of his e-bow to mimic strings and the lighting man able to give the impression of Jenny moving by alternating flashes from each side of the stage - it gave the appearance of her being 2 different people and #TEAMw21 salute his inventiveness.

Jenny unlike some artists does not shy away from her earlier work and so immediately goes from her new EP to her debut one "The Quiet Kind" for "The City". The live sound seems to enhance the inner poppiness of the guitar work and the drumming is exemplary.

The first single from "Lost Animals" was "Soldier Of The Modern Day" - a superb set piece swaying from the pained poignant vocal of the acoustic section to the latter, stirring fighting vocal pleading for the welfare of her children. reaching highs and then reaching them again - it is powerful to view it in full action and amazing as it winds down and the sound gently fades to nothing. The title track of "Lost Animals" in this live format reveals its inner "Sting"ness even more, enhanced by the percussion and the entwining between the electric and acoustic guitars, as well as Jenny's etheral vocals that drift off in an echo around 229.

At this stage the band depart and Jenny returns to playing solo on the keyboard for "Feel Inside" She plays standing and delivers a performance of perfection. Another delve into the back catalogue brought out "Tell Me Where The Light Is?" made so compelling by the high pitched piano line that repeatedly runs through it - it provides a subtle beauty that perfectly matches the lyrics of the song. A visit to Jenny's "Something Beautiful" album for "I Am Yours" reveals it as being about addiction, with the addiction being given a voice. From the same album comes "Poetry Of You" given a rare outing as "It's so hard", it comes with a blistering chorus - rarely has the word "Poetry" been expressed with such vehemence, almost spat out at times - it was a jaw dropping tour de force with Jenny admitting afterwards "that one hurts phyically" - such was the effort given.

For those wondering what Jenny's future output might be, the first half of her set draws to a close with "Fading" a new song only aired only a couple of times - a short number played on acoustic guitar, on first listen it is both beautiful and yet slightly disturbing, there's a gentle guitar melody yet the words "It's hard to breathe ....Let me out i'm fading" hint at something darker but that will be for another day to analyze.

The second half was always going to have a job to live up to the excellence of the first, but that would certainly not stop Jenny from giving it a go and by the second song we were almost in Coldplay territory with the anthemic "Shape". Ironically the next song had a Coldplay title but it was not to be their version of "Paradise" - this one was from the latest EP, which like the rest of the "lost Animals" relished its day in the sun in a band format -Jenny's keyboards providing the dominant hook along with her outstanding vocals - it met and raised the bar on the studio version.

The only time things went slightly awry in the evening was the Don Henley "Boys Of Summer" cover, this is so engrained in our psyche that a slightly slowed down version without the trademark crisp guitar just fell slightly short in our opinion although apparently it went down a storm in Stoke! Top marks for having impeccable taste though! The final song from "Lost Animals" was "I'm Just Lost" and it really reinforced just how good an EP this is, with the track building up into an all out rocker, with band and vocalist at full pelt.

More teasers of what lies in Jenny's future came with the next batch of songs, "My Design" driven by a piano riff and with a chorus of "This is my design" was a song that built in intensity as it went.while "Spark" saw Jenny go back to her acoustic guitar for a song about her dog. The band really got a chance to rock out with "Better Love" an Oasis style rocker over which Jenny unleased rapid fire lyrics. A song that has surfaced at Jenny's recent solo shows is "Fallen Angels" which has become the "audience singalong" moment and tonight was no different, with Jenny letting the band fall away so that she could hear the assembled choir sing.

The evening was to close with two of Jenny's most anthemic songs, the main set with "Something Beautiful" the title tarck of her abum which has a soaring chorus that builds and builds. A standing ovation led to an encore and that was well and truly delivered with "Dirty Town" which encapsulated Jenny and her band at their best,able to move through the gears from gentle build up to explosive choruses that seem unable to be held by the laws of physics and manage to find new levels to go to even when that seems impossible.

An exemplary evening with two undoubted talents who each seem destined for a big year in 2023.




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