Rough Trade had hired what is debatably London’s most atmospheric and beautiful venue, the Union Chapel, for five females of mixed musical tastes. Eileen Rose is a Rough Trade Records signing but we couldn’t work out why Beth Orton or Anjali (or the other two acts) were there.
That said, they were there and the audience was happy. The majority of whispering – and drunken yelling – from the pews was about Beth Orton, by far the most famous of the acts here this evening. Drunk sixth formers were everywhere, spilling all manner of alcoholic fluids onto the chapel’s woodwork, nattering through sets and generally behaving like they were in the Garage down the road rather than a religious venue. One presumes that the building is only deemed a church when a priest and congregation is present; it was difficult to feel religious when Anjali opened the evening’s entertainment for her first-ever gig.
Her eponymously titled debut album, out now on Wiiija Records, is a luxurious and eclectic mix of middle eastern and western influences which, combined, showcase her talents as a singer, songwriter, DJ and producer. Live, with a backing band, she created a very similar soundscape, with Arabian Queen sounding particularly gorgeous with the added height of the chapel’s vaulted ceiling. Just as we were getting into the swing of things – as the audience started to arrive – her extra-short set finished. She must have been on for a mere twenty minutes – but for a debut performance this sounded professional to the last note and suggested greater things to come from Anjali.
Eileen Rose is much more an American country singer and shares more musically with Tammy Wynette than she does with the middle east, but her performance was electric, with an excellent and well drilled band who seemed to respond to her every wish or whim. I’d unfortunately never heard of her until then, so immediately ventured to the CD stall at the back of the chapel and bought her album. Much of her warm, positive vibe comes across on the album Shine Like It Does as well, but she was well worth the ticket price on her own.
Beth Orton, all gangly and boyish with her Janet Street Porter-esque accent in between songs, is no great shakes when she starts nattering to her audience. Some performers are great at audience interaction, but on the evidence of this and other gigs of hers I’ve seen, Orton is not one of them.
When she starts singing and playing, however, her voice and guitar work famously well, her songs dangling over the edge of melancholia and her stage presence, especially in this venue, a force of its own.
With several albums of material to choose from, the set was a pleasing mix of old and new, but after four support acts it suffered from the audience’s exhaustion as well as its nature.
Eileen Rose, blowing out with a belter of a country tune, might have kept the kiddies awake longer.