Gold Dust night at the Hoxton Square Bar + Kitchen aims to tease out a bunch of commercial pop acts ahead of the curve. A typically eclectic line-up tonight brings us the likes of Lingo Scott teaming up europop with dubstep, and Mercedes, a rapper raw like Neneh Cherry.
Despite Xenomania’s bright hope Florrie’s star billing, the best performance of the night comes from Australian Sparkadia. Fronting a typically formatted five-piece, Sparkadia is in fact a solo project by founding member Alex Burnett, he having parted company with the rest of the original band since their debut album Postcards came out in 2008.
Burnett’s songwriting proves tight and suggestive of someone with lofty ambitions. Rollicking recent single Mary, a tale of destructive love, is packed with more drama than an afternoon at RADA. Burnett holds it all together from the front of the stage, his eyes dancing around the room, his vocals soaring high. Other highlights include Fingerprints and China, neither of which would be out of place in a stadium setting. With his musicians, he combines the sound of a straightforward band with a deft pop touch in the way that the likes of Killers, Keane and Scissor Sisters have achieved in the past. A cover version of Kelis‘s Acapella nods to the Gold Dust theme, and as he and his band finish, there’s a sense that Sparkadia won’t be playing such intimate venues for long.
Florrie might only be 22, but she’s been biding her time. A long-time member of the Xenomania stable, she’s been involved in a lot of its campaigns, while quietly building up her own portfolio of material. Having been in close proximity to the under-performance of peers like Mini Viva, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Annie, a slow build should have helped Florrie figure out the pitfalls to avoid.
Unfortunately the tracks she showcases come from a very similar place to her predecessors. Time moves fast in the pop world. The inventive melodic hooks and lyrical quirks that worked so well when Xenomania were flying high with Girls Aloud now sound dated and less unpredictable. Summer Nights sounds so much like a lost Annie track that you’re left wondering why Florrie wouldn’t have been more cautious of following in her footsteps. Apart from the disarmingly wonderful Give Me Your Love, hopes for something new and unique evaporate.
A model on the side, Florrie is almost imposingly beautiful. Tonight she’s decided to come as a goth princess, all supersized crimped hair and billowing material. It’s a look entirely at odds with the plastic pop, and has a whiff of someone trying to hitch a ride on Florence Welch and Zola Jesus‘s bandwagon.
There’s no denying that her material is carefree and catchy. Her fate will be decided by whether Xenomania’s previous misfires were ahead of their time or just not good enough.