Tuesday 22 February 2011
The dark, confined walls of indy club Audio were home to two of the most hotly anticipated acts for 2011 in the shape of Ghostpoet and Jamie Woon. In the end, both artists showed enough promise to suggest that they can look forward to productive years, although it was Ghostpoet who outshone the BBC Sound of 2011’s Woon.
The evening began with support from rapper Ghostpoet – although his albumPeanut Butter Blues and Melnacholy Jam recently featured on the Guardian‘s homepage as an exclusive stream, and with the likes of The Streets championing his cause, most within Audio didn’t seem to know who he was. However, by the end of his enthralling set, Obaro Ejimiwe had done more than enough to win over the initially reticent crowd, and firmly made his case for being one of the most exciting new acts today. Ghostpoet’s tracks are a heady mix of dub, grime, and (aptly) ghostly synths lurking underneath it all. The laid-back grooves and twisting, heady beats suit Ejimiwe’s particular delivery, in which he places witty observations alongside bleak imagery of life’s hardships whilst growing up – it’s easy to see why Mike Skinner has taken a shine to the “lad with a lisp with some stories to tell”.
In ‘Us Against Whatever Ever’, Ejimiwe recalls: “You and I, wear things like pork pies/ And, eat things like pork pies”, which is to my knowledge the first time somebody has ever rhymed pork pies with, well, pork pies. The accompaniment of a live guitarist and drummer gave the tracks an extra kick, which is often lost when somebody simply performs over a backing beat. Ejimiwe also showed adept skills on the synth pads, and with the chaotic breakdown which finished ‘Liines’ segueing nicely into ‘Us Against Whatever Ever’, he showed he isn’t afraid to experiment in a live setting. Ejimiwe’s stage presence was impressive, and part of the reason that the audience was so appreciative was that it’s near-impossible to dislike the man’s demeanour. Even when his set was momentarily cut short by an over-eager Audio DJ, Ejiwime laughed it off and finished the set confidently. He regularly thanked the crowd and seemed to really appreciate the support, which in turn fed the goodwill from the crowd. With tracks such as ‘Us Against Whatever Ever’, ‘Cash and Carry Me Home’ and the fantastic ‘Liines’, big things await Ghostpoet – and nobody could begrudge him that.
While Ghostpoet was going to be a tough act to follow, the reception that greeted Jamie Woon as he happily strode on stage confirmed who the crowd was really here to see. If the BBC’s Sound of … tips for this year prove correct, then the 27-year-old BRIT School graduate is set for a meteoric rise and a lot of airplay, which would suit Tuesday’s audience just fine. However, although Woon possesses profound talent, he may have to work on a few more killer tracks before he truly breaks the big time.
Woon looked a little unkempt with a fuzzy beard and plain dark jumper. As soon as he opened his mouth to sing, it became apparent that inside lurked the vocal chords of a future soul star. Even when playing complex chord patterns on his guitar at the same time, Woon’s voice didn’t waver for a moment, and was pitch perfect throughout. Assisted by a beefy drummer who “doubles as security(!)”, and two talented keyboard players (one of which was close to rivalling Woon’s vocals himself), the set-up allowed Woon’s vocals to soar, save for the opening track, on which one of his two microphones didn’t appear to be switched on. He soldiered on with the giddy smile that left the audience swooning as he sauntered through tracks from his upcoming debut album Mirrorwriting.
It wasn’t really until halfway through the set, when the opening bars of ‘Night Air’ drifted around Audio, that Woon really got into the swing of things with a crisp beat, great vocals and a synth funk bass finish adding an extra dimension to the track. ‘In the Middle’ was particularly impressive, with the call-and-response of the title being repeated by the backing band throughout, with Woon’s looped voice leaving the audience suitably impressed. It goes without saying that you can’t really use a loop pedal confidently live unless you’re going to hit those notes, but for Woon that doesn’t appear to be a problem at all – he’s simply faultless.
It has been said that with a voice like his, Woon could have taken the easy way to the top with a few mainstream soul tracks, but it’s genuinely inspiring to see such a talented performer within the confines of a small club, playing tracks which he, and the audience, love. Although he may ironically be in need of a couple of standout tracks for future live shows, Woon showed more than enough promise to suggest that whichever road he takes from hereon in, it’ll probably take him all the way to the top.
You can also read the review at Soundblab, who kindly provided me with the tickets for the gig.