The second of the Laura Oakes & Friends sessions again succeeded in gathering together a competitive bill of performers to provide a diverse evening of singer songwriting skills at their finest.
First up was on the night was Lisa Wright, hot from a batch of high profile support slots and ahead of her own day in the sun next week for her EP launch at 229. Although this was essentially the same set as those shows, tonight she was playing to a home crowd of seasoned fans. As she began with "Back To You", she was visibly more relaxed and you could see her scanning the room visibly smiling on seeing familiar faces. After her spell on the boards she is now well and truly back at the top of her game and the new EP I suspect will only boost that confidence even more.
The first of the new EP songs "Tennessee", already sounding her most overtly "Country" song to date, gets better on every listen, and Lisa's craft when singing it, occasionally stepping back and forth from the microphone only adds to the delivery. By her own admission she is not "Queen of the upbeat songs" but she has the ability to hold an audiences attention by just delaying or holding on to a phrase for an extra second. It is a skill she puts to good use in the next song "Why Would I Wanna" where she draws a laugh from the audience by just emphasising the line "bottle of wine".
Of the new songs "Mind Of Mine" comes with an intriguing introduction and comes with a sassy delivery while "Giving Up The Ghost" is something else indeed. This song I would hazzard is intensely personal and means a lot to Lisa, the preparation routine before commencing it and the look in her eye as she sings it suggest this is real soul bearing material and the results show through in a quite magnificent song. That is the classic of an EP yet to come, but the song from her released material that has become a classic in its own right is "In The End". Each time I hear it, its magnificence is revealed in its simplicity, and when harnessed to a bit of dramatic theatre by upping the volume levels for the last verse it makes for a fitting finale. A great start to the evening from Holloway Road's "Honourary third geezer!"
Robbie Cavanagh had the role of separating the two ladies in performance, and opened up with "Get Out Alive" from his latest album "To Leave/To Be Left", this version may have lacked the big instrumentation of the recorded version but the stripped back version if anything wratcheted up the tension. The drama continued into "Hey It's Alright" where he increased the drama like Lisa by taking a step away from the microphone to sing his sweetly delivered vocals. Robbie has the ability weave an atmosphere and the intense lyrics of "Scars" kept everyones attention.
Things moved a bit more uptempo for "Choked Up", while "The Willingness To Move" completed a duo of songs from his "The State Of Maine" album. Things were to close with another belter of a song, a Demi Marriner co write called "Hang Up" that comes with a punchy chorus. As he prepared to leave the stage there was a spontaneous burst of "Happy Birthday To You" and it was revealed he had chosen to spend his special day with us in Camden Town!
Laura Oakes was in her element, as she was to later to explain, she just puts together a show she would like to see and then tacks herself on at the end. Hot on the heels of her solo appearance in the round at Jenn Bostics show at Bush Hall, tonight saw her reunited with guitarist Pete Darling and her cajon player. Laura's first acoustic EP remains one of the finest EP's released in the last five years and this format is the closest we've ever come to recreating it in a live setting, and tonight finds her once again in fine voice.
Her second acoustic EP was none to shabby either and it was to provide the next four songs "Better In Blue Jeans", with its "Oh Oh Oh" chorus and use of the underused phrase "high falutin'". through the effortless ease of "Lazy" to the unbridled knowing cheeky joy of singing "Glitter". It is "Nashville Stole your Girl" that really shines in the live arena with every word of the delivery impeccably sung. Once again "Whatever You Want" leaves you wishing the cajon player could just have one song off, the first two verses delivered solo are so perfect I'm not sure the band need to come in at all.
Having said that, the band came into their own on "Rocket Man" (the de rigeur Elton John cover that no Laura show would be without! ) where their contributions fitted in well. The closing song as ever was "Snakes and Ladders" still sounding as good as ever. For the encore it was a case of all hands back to the stage, as Lisa and Robbie returned for a run through of "Landslide" before sending us home on our way. Another of these evenings is promised for later in the year and will surely be another evening of great entertainment.