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.

5 comments:

Richardd said...

Great review for a breath taking concert. I saw them perform at St Martins church in November last year and thought it was special. Last nights performance even surpassed that. The whole evening was summed up at the end by the opening note of 'In this shirt' played on the Town hall organ. Incredibly moving and fitting.

The Baron said...

Cheers Richard! Yes I was there at the St Martins gig too and I'd agree with you. What an incredible show. I know Jamie's working on some new material now...can't wait to hear what's next. I'll try to keep you updated on here.

BorisVian said...

Whish they came to Portugal.

Sailor Annie said...

This was a really wonderful show.

I enjoyed Sarah Johns's set, though I agree with you that the theatrics might have been better spread out a bit. I particularly liked "Buy my gun" (or some such!) There was a definite Kate Bush vibe to it I thought.

The Irrepressibles were just as fab as I was hoping. Jamie's performance bought me in mind at times of the late, great and much-missed Billy MacKenzie. I can't believe I hadn't come across this band before. We've been playing the album non-stop since.

Thanks so much for the tip!

The Baron said...

Hi Sailor Annie, so glad you enjoyed the show. I'd not made the connection with Billy before but you're right! It's a real shame that The Irrepressibles aren't as well known as they deserve to be but the word's spreading now. I can't wait to hear what they do next...

PS: Boris - I'll suggest a visit to Portugal next time I speak to Jamie!