Lucy May, Deeanne Dexeter, Carter Jnr, Brooke Law - Pizza Express Live Holborn
On our first visit to the Pizza Express Live venue at Holborn, it was a pleasure to find out that this venue has a degree of musical history dating back to the 60's and also that it has a somewhat eclectic booking policy, which in future weeks will host acts from The Blow Monkeys to Su "Hi Di Hi" Pollard! The venue itself dowstairs was a delight, with close up seats next to the stage and an array of tables for everyone else. The sound on the evening was perfect and even if the business of selling pizzas is done in a fairly unobtrusive way so as not to interfere with the performances.
The last time #TEAMw21 witnessed the marvel that is Lucy May was at the wondrous launch of her second album at the Islington, it was a full band, soul review experience replete with backing singers and Lucy May never looked or sounded better. It's been four years since then and it was great to hear that not only has she recently returned from a spell as one of Michael Bolton's backing singers but also that she is about to pick up a residency in Nashville.
Having alway looked as if she she could have been plucked from the 1960's it should really come as no surprise that she should find herself at home with a sound akin to the girl groups of the era. Tonight was to be no soul review with only a couple of acoustic guitarists in tow, including long time associate Gonzo - however it did give both us and Lucy a chance to review and reassess her back catalogue - and as she arrived on stage with her tambourine streaming ribbons - she was to reveal herself to be a real 60's soul cat!
Opening with "Little By Little" it was great to report no long term effects from her bout from covid, in fact if anything her voice sounded richer more confident and self assured then ever, the stripped back sound allowing a chance to really allow the lyrics to shine. Able to retain the soulful party vibe of the recording this was a great way to welcome her back. Moving to the slower soul of "Counting The Days", Lucy took the mic and both looked and sounded like a classic soul diva, clearly loving every minute.
It was noticable how songs from the first album were also transformed by their new soulful reinterpretation, "Keep Your Hands Off My Man", was reinvigorated, and saw Lucy continuing like a trouper despite some audible interference throughout that maybe might have derailed her all those years ago - certainly not now though.
Taking to her stool for "Mixed Emotions", this was another demonstration of complete vocal control and of Lucy really inhabiting the song, giving it that extra feel of making the lyrics real and personal. Reuniting hersefl with the tambourine "Ain't About You" had a delightful uptempo cheeky feel to it, while the stripped back version of "New" promoted the lyrics more to the forefront, the "I remember you when you were new" seemed more cutting.
For "Better Off Now" we got the first sighting of Lucy publicly playing guitar, not really one our favourites, the quality chorus is not really matched by the slightly shoehorned lyrics of the verses. If it was a glitch it was temporary and was instantly obliterated by her recent cover of Gladys Knight & The Pips "You're The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me". A favourite of her parents, this version was simply gorgeous with Lucy channelling her inner Gladys with the feel and affection of someone who has listened to the record a zillion times - one of the highlights of the night for sure.
A closing salvo from her debut album saw "Don't Wait Up" become an all round more sophisticated pop song while the inevitable closer "Whirlwind" also found a new lease of life and brought the evening to a wonderful close and reminded us of just what we had been missing on the London scene.
The last time Deeanne Dexeter played for us was as Buckle & Boots in a both visually and aurally stunning set with a full band and dazzling outfit. Her musical path has also taken a country soul,route - if Lucy May was Motown, I suspect Deeanne may have been Atlantic.
Tonight she was to be with but one acoustic guitarist. which inevitably sucked some of the oomph from the overall sound but not an iota from Deeannes singing which reverberated and all but shook the walls at times.
The opener "Blind Eye" was a great introduction to her new sound, with its ever rising, ever intense chorus."RIght Place At The Wrong Time" in comparison to the previous belter was wonderfully restrained and beautifully delivered. Looking and sounding more comfortable on stage than ever, it was a joy to once again have Deeanne in a London venue.
"4 AM" the song co written with Laura Oakes saw Deeanne move to hand holding the mic, little sections of phrasing are so Laura that it's as if she was almost in the room on this heartbreaking song. The Dexeter songbook was inevitably raided and why not as there are a lot of quality moments in that catalogue. Opting for "I Hope It Hurts" came as a surprise, however it nestled beautifully into the set. With more new material promised for later this year, we got a tease in the shape of "Mind Your Business", an unusually direct song which saw Deeanne in an unusually confrontational mood. The set closed with "Women Like You" which was the launchpad for Deeanne's return to the scene and sounded as awesome as the day that it arrived at #TEAMw21 Towers!
The evening had commenced with a short set from Brooke Law, possessing a mop of curly hair that would sometimes make her face disappear when she moved her head rapidly from side to side. More importantly she came with a rocky raspy edge to her voice while also able to sing at the more gently end of the spectrum to heartbeaking effect.
This set showed her more acoustic intimate side, starting with "Millionaire" which managed to both use Del Boy's "Only Fools And Hoses" catchphrase and to incorporate the evenings most unnusual line in about dropping her "last pound in the loo".
Songs like "I'm Hungry" were immediately impressing, and it is easy to see why artists like Joan Armatrading are referenced in her bio - that ability to be tender and heartfelt tied up in a voice that could move to all out rocker mode at any second. The song closed after Brooke had gone both soft and high pitched as she gently sung
"If you just loved me baby that would be enough".
It was a first outing for her Harry Styles "Watermelon Sugar" cover which perfectly played to her strengths and elicited the first sngalong of the evening.
A new tune "We All Need Saving Sometimes" initially begun as a number of a "What if I..." questions and devloped into into a beautifully expressive chorus. It's due out in May and will be interesting to see if she takes it down a straight Americana route - that ability to move from a whisper to a scream was so powerful.
The happy song "If Not For Love", saw Brooke move to all out rocker mode, her voice incredibly stong, just the right side of raspy and it was easy to imagine her fronting an all out rocking combo!! There was a strange moment with an unrecorded song "Excuse Me" apparently written over 10 years ago, quite how Brooke has managed to carry this litle gem around with her so long without feeling the need to record it is a mystery. Sounding like an instant classic, dripping in hooks and laced with powerful lyrics, this seemed too good to be kept away from a wider audience! Closing with her new single due out in a few weeks "Give Me A Break", Brooke managed to close a memorable set with a song that had a chorus that almost erupted as Brooke's voice rose in intensity before blasting out the "Give Me A Break" chorus. It will undoubtedly be one to watch for as indeed will Brooke Law - definitely going places.
Squeezed between Brooke and Deeanne was the only male singer of the night, Australian Carter Jnr. His style at first was a combination of delicately picked guitar and a voice that was very theatrical, occasionally he'd sing high pitched, sometimes off mic and then quite forceful while shaking his head. It all made for a somewhat dreamy effect.
Carter was engaging, with a great stage patter, "A Guy Like Me And a Girl Like You" had a similar style of guitar playing, but the vocals this time were more traditional singer songwriter, which gradually wound up in intensity as the tune developed. A song dedicated to his Grandad, "To Be Frank", was full of neat little observations. and played in the word "Frank". It was to be very much a set of 2 halves as for the second half carter was joined by Drexler on piano changing the overall sound considerably.
As a duo they opened with "Home Town" about Sydney, Carter's whole guitar sound became more relaxed and Drexlers playing brought an added urgency which in turn encouraged Carter to let rip on his vocals. Coincidentally Carter had a single to plug, recorded in Nashville, "Take Me and I Will Show You" gradulally built in intensity with Carter's vocal become ever more powerful and expressive. The closer "Between The Stones" started with Drexler laying down a delicate piano intro for Carter to lay down his his most considered vocal. Halfway through Carter's guitar playing once again became more agressive, Drexler's piano playing ramped up while Carter's vocals were allowed free reign. It all made for an entertaining set.