With the cold weather safely subsided, it was nice to arrive at the Union Chapel to see a sizeable queue already forming 30 minutes before the doors opened for Sarah Darlings biggest UK show headline show to date. Keen eyed fans would have spotted the likes of Lisa Wright, Jeff Cohen and Ward Thomas sitting in the pews to watch a fully packed evening of entertainment.
Hailing from Athens Georgia, the first act of the night was a UK debut for Katie Pruitt. It was hard to tell if it was nerves or supreme confidence but on taking to the stage her guitar intro to the opening song "You Can Never Love Again" seemed to last a long time before she actually started sing. There was a big end on the lines "You were never mine". Her next song "Ordinary" had a lovely turn of phrase, and an almost jazzy feel to it and was delivered in almost Amy Winehouse way.
Her set was highly intriguing, songs like "Grace Has A Gun" were delivered with a strong voice that captivated us as the song really built up in intensity. It was hard not to affected by personal songs like "Like I Belong" which she said we'd understand if she had written it well - we did!
Her songs of love like "It 's always been you" were simply perfection with great lines of detail like being in a shop and having a fight with baguettes!. The final song "Loving Her" saw a final big performance that helped her secure enough fans to clean out her supply of CD's that she brought with her.
Twinnie suddenly has become a regular feature on the London gig scene and it's a pleasure to see her on a more regular basis.Tonight with both a guitarist and keyboard player she performed barefoot "like Joss Stone". She's preparing to release a debut album so the set was a mixture of old faves, new songs and the odd classic for good measure,
Of the new material "Social Babies" is one of our faves as it's full of youth speak about phones and filters. It did entail Twinny having to swear in church - whatever next!. There was an unexpected nod to classic country with a cover of "Crazy" that was well received. If there's an area at which Twinnie excels it is the big ballad and tonight we got a couple in the shape of the Lucie Silvas co write "Superhero" and the closer "Lie To Me" a big anthem of a song ideally suited to the Union Chapel. At the same time "Cool" from her debut EP now a collectors item shows that she has a great ear for good tune. All in all a perfect warm up for C2C 2018.
For Sarah Darling 2018 is the start of putting "Dream Country" to bed as her expectant fans wait for her next offering later in the year. Tonight opens with a trip back in time to the "Home To Me" EP for "You Don't Have To Be Lonely Tonight". she is clearly in love with the venue and the reception she gets from her adoring fans.
It is the new material that is most intriguing "Shimmer" has almost a dancce feel to it and there is almost a little shimmy form Sarah as she sings.For "Diamond" she is joined by co writer Jess Sharman for what looks to be stand out song, there is also an unexpected cover of Coldplay's "Yellow". Keeping the momentum of new songs going was the new single "Wasted" with its serious subject matter which was followed by the colossus that is "More Issues Than Vogue", it may be what Sarah calls a "Silly song" but it had the whole of the Union Chapel singing along which is not bad for a song yet to be released.
There was a lovely tribute to Tom Petty, where Sarah avoided many of the usual songs that people perform opting instead for "Wild Flowers" from his 1994 album of the same name. It was followed by a truly beautiful rendition of "Anchor" that could only have been bettered if it had begun "...and on backing vocals here is my co writer Sam Palladio"!
There was still more new material to come in the shape of "Bad Habit", a song using lot of cigarette images as a metaphor, while "Angel Wings" premiered during Country Music Week in October with its almost Celtic lilt has all the hallmarks of being another classic.. Another highlight of the evening came with the return of Katie Pruitt and it was only when she was stood next to Sarah ( who is no giant) that we say quite how tiny she was! They performed a lovely reinvention of "Landslide".
The closing songs saw Paris created in front of our very eyes via a lovely fiddle introduction to "Montmartre" while the beauty of "Halley's Comet" with the piano riff that always brings a warm smile was simply epic.
The encore of "Stargazer" brought the evening to a close and Sarah then spent time with all of her fans. It was not a night completely without issues, i'd have preferred the drummer to have stayed on brushes for the majority of the evening as his sound tended to be the dominant force swirling around the chapel, while Deans electric guitar for large parts of the evening seemed muted to the point it was barely audible but these are quibbles in what was a successful start to her biggest UK tour to date.