The Communion New Faces tour started a year ago, promising to shine a light on emerging new talent. The likes of Luke Sital Singh and Eliza And The Bear were among its main attractions, and while previous artists have achieved varying degrees of success, that in itself might not be the sole point of the tour; it’s marketed more as a “here’s some bands you might like” affair and isn’t focused so much on being ahead of the curve.
The setting itself is perfect for a chilly winter’s night – St. Stephen’s Church in Shepherd’s Bush providing a pretty shelter. For some bands, it’s an ideal environment. For others, it doesn’t quite work. Case in point for the latter is Pixel Fix, the openers. It’s not that they are shy or retiring types – if the stage was any bigger they would probably throw themselves around without a care in the world – but their sound isn’t made to be enjoyed whilst sitting down in a mildly uncomfortable pew.
Kimberly Anne is considerably more dynamic. She alternates between playing guitars, playing back loops of sounds from an African xylophone and creates layers of vocal harmonies. It doesn’t take her too long to win over the crowd – halfway through she convinces everyone to have a boogie – even when her equipment isn’t working. Her charming, easy going personality makes for a highly likeable stage presence. Her songs are also solid. The highlights are La La, with infectious sweet harmonies, and the powerful and defiant Roar, which closes her set.
Fyfe, aka singer songwriter Paul Dixon, will be familiar to anyone who remembers David’s Lyre, because it’s the same guy. Under his old moniker, there were plenty of good ideas but that’s all they were. In Fyfe, which is a lot more minimalist and sparse in sound, there’s a sense that he’s really finding his groove. Songs like For You and Solace are more considered and thought out. Of all the performers, he’s the quietest in terms of stage banter, but he leaves the most enduring impression.
Amber Run are very much the opposite of quiet. Their songs are huge, unapologetically so. The fact that they’re using the tried-and-tested Coldplay formula of anthem writing might explain why they were snapped up so quickly. Either way, they’ve already amassed a sizeable fanbase and their short headline performance suggests that it won’t be too long before they’re a household name. Heart wrenching ballad? 5am ticks that box. Impressive harmonies? I Found has plenty of those. Something for people to clap along to? Spark does the job. Nothing here is original but it does the job and it convinces some members of the audience that standing on pews in church after a couple of drinks is a good idea.
It wouldn’t be surprising if, in a year from now, people would talk about how they saw Amber Run in a small venue before they sold out megadomes, appeared Saturday Night Live, soundtracked dramatic TV trailers and met the Queen (probably). However, the rest of the bill played their part adequately well. Fair play to Communion for choosing a diverse enough range of musicians (if mixed in quality) to make this evening something special.