Time once again for another edition of Laura Evans and Friends, a regular bi monthlyish gathering of Laura her band and a couple of well chosen acts to provide an evening of musical delights. As word gets out they seem to be becoming a must see event and it was a fairly packed and rather warm Troubadour that welcomed her additional guests in the shape of Beth Keeping and Katy Hurt.
The evening retains its unique format in that the host actually come on first and does her set before introducing the first guest, then after a short break Laura does a mini set before preceding the second guest with a finale closing the evening out.
With Laura's drummer stuck on a train somewhere between Manchester and London it was a three piece band of bass, keyboards and guitar that announced the evening had begun with the intro to "You Make It Easy", with Laura emerging from the dressing room after 20 seconds or so to take to the stage with a little "Hello everyone". A petite figure even in heels with an engaging personality that makes her an ideal host. She exudes such enthusiasm, often to be found smiling throughout her set, and bouncing as she sings or kicking a leg back in the moment.
"Ride" was revealed to be about "Valerie The Volvo!", which saw Laura using a myriad of hand actions to sell the song, which also managed to incorporate a version of "Jolene" before returning to the uptempo chorus of "Ride". When we were last with Laura at he Troubadour she premiered her latest single "Heartstrings", which on release we described as being a classic country single, tonight starting with just a piano and Laura, it retained its power and with just the right amount of backing vocals it was a truly lovely performance.
Break ups have fortunately usually have the effect of fuelling inspiration and the next song "Mess", a Jenn Bostic co write was testament to that. A big personal adult song with great lyrics that gripped us from the start "I traced every trait you had I hated". It was a big piano ballad and if it was break up therapy it certainly worked - one to watch out for when it is eventually released without a doubt dealing with "The mess you made of me". By comparison "Remember When" seemed a lighter piece of pop country to close out the introductory set however the evening was well and truly started.
Beth Keeping, playing solo, continued the quality content with a short but engrossing set, starting with "Flashbacks", which was a neat idea and full of little details that marked it out as being something a bit special. It was to her excellent EP "Fool" that she went to next with "Strangers In Same City" though it was hard to recreate the glossiness of the recorded version. Beth is an absorbing singer songwriter whose songs invite you in and then hold you hostage for their duration, "21 Years" about forgiveness left us transfixed for its duration. Similarly "Naked", about being able to be completely open with someone was another intense performance lifted by Beth providing a little percussion by tapping her guitar. The final song was co written by the ridiculously busy Kaity Rae who seems to be churning out quality songs on an almost daily basis at the moment. "Building Bridges On the Dance Floor" was an acoustic version of what will eventually be more of a pop song, a fairly straight forward retelling of a falling out that is eventually healed through the power of music and dance to the point "We can't remember what we were fighting for". With another performance coming up at next weeks sold out "Write Like A Girl" event, there has never been a better time for checking in with Beth.
The second half started with a 2 song mini set form Laura, the first of which was a happy song, "I Know You Are Here To Stay", which saw Laura utilise the crowd to make up for the missing drummer, on a song that had the feeling of 60's girl group classic on first listening. Her final song "Could If I Wanted To" played with just a guitar for backing is earmarked as being her next potential release.
For Katy Hurt, the set was dressed with 2 stools for her and guitarist Gab Zsapka, and a quick switch of microophone to reduce the risk of infection with Katy still suffering from the tail end o an illness. Her songwriting relationship with Gab has already yielded some great results and tonight was a good excuse to give us a preview of more songs that will up for consideration for her debut album.
The first "Falling Apart" much like Laura's earlier had us won over from the very first couplet, a high quality opening and a certainty for the new record one would think. For "Sleeping Next To You", Katy donned a guitar of her own for an upbeat more uptempo song, with a chorus that was effortlessly engaging. The run of new songs continued with "Over And Done", which came complete with some snappily delivered lines, a pop song that even this acoustic format sounded like it could be worked up into something really special.
While "Revved Up" may not be my favourite track from the "Unfinished Business" EP, there was to be no denying the sheer fun that Katy seemed to have in performing it or the extremely positive response from the assembled throng. Just occasionally you could hear in her voice the tail end of a sore throat but that in no way stopped her from going for and hitting all the required big notes.
The party atmosphere really kicked in with "Take Me There" with Katy showing the stagecraft that comes with having played over 100 gigs this year alone to get the audience enthusiastically joining in. Unsure of how long was left Katy could not help but let out a palpable "Yea" when told there was still time for one additional song - and what a song! Personally I think "Unfinished Business" is the current recorded pinnacle of her songwriting relationship with Gab, although by the sound of the forthcoming material that position may soon be under threat, everything about it is top notch and tonight the performance was undoubtedly effortlessly brilliant and a fine way to close out the main show.
An unrehearsed encore of Lady Antebellum's "Downtown" saw Laura and her band join Katy to close out the evening, producing a good time feeling to close out the evening.
The next edition of Laura Evans and Friends is pencilled in for September - exact date and guests tbc