Wednesday, March 23, 2011
The Irrepressibles / Sarah Johns Music Party @ The Town Hall, Tuesday 22nd March 2011
Wow. Okay, perhaps that’s not the most eloquent review of all time but when you’ve just sat through an hour or so of some of the most beautiful, heartfelt music ever written it seems pretty apt. I was lucky enough to see this show last year and part of me didn’t want to risk seeing it a second time in case it somehow spoilt what was, quite frankly, one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. I needn’t have worried. Before all that though opener Sarah Johns Music Party beguiled with a ‘sweet as sack of fluffy kittens’ set that included an awesome acapella number ‘Too Many Songs’ (which reminded me of the equally awesome Camille). The only constructive comment I’d make is that the first two numbers (‘Loyal’ featured two disembodied singers...check out the video) set the bar so high that the rest of the performance, good though it was, couldn’t compete. Spread the theatrics out a bit more perhaps? Or stick some more theatrics in? I do love a bit of theatrics...
On then to the main event. The Irrepressibles are a gloriously theatrical (see, I told you I loved the theatrics) ten piece (eight tonight) chamber pop band led by singer, lyricist, composer and all round genius Jamie McDermott. Many of their songs deal with the holy trinity of love, loss and longing, but it’s the way these emotions are communicated, and the performance itself that, as with the last show, took tonight onto a whole different level.
The show started with the stage wrapped in darkness. All you can hear is a single human breath, echoing throughout the cavernous Town Hall. As opening numbers go it’s an unusual way to start a gig but then The Irrepressibles aren’t your typical group. Embracing everything from the cabaret scene of 1930’s Berlin through to folk and sea shanties and formed around the hugely talented Jamie McDermott an Irrepressibles show is a true feast for the senses. Mirrors surround the stage on three sides reflecting back the automaton like movements of the band as Jamie bares his soul in an intensely emotional performance. His voice is an incredible instrument, recalling everyone from Anthony Hegarty to Kate Bush but at the same time remaining distinctively unique. Add some truly heartbreaking lyrics and it’s simply impossible to remain unmoved by it all.
Drawing mainly from the band’s Mirror Mirror album the highlights were relentless, from the teasing ‘I’ll Maybe Let You’ through to the hauntingly beautiful ‘Forget The Past’ (the hairs on the back of my neck still ain’t gone down). There wasn’t much chat (it’s not that kind of show) but Jamie did find a moment to observe that the relatively opulent venue was ‘So me’. It was too, the perfect setting for a performance that demands and deserves respect. It was the final encore though, 'In This Shirt', with its pleading choruses, soaring violins and organ (Town Hall’s own) that combined to make one of the most emotional pieces of music you’re ever likely to hear. The spontaneous standing ovation at the end said it all really. Wow.