In a recent interview Finn Andrews confessed to “fully embracing being miserable”, yet his music on this solo tour is making fans anything but. While his band The Veils look set to remain a going concern, Andrews realised that the songs he had written this time round were suitable for him alone, hence the appearance of debut solo album One Piece At A Time. Having released the album he is clearly enjoying taking it around Europe.
St Pancras Old Church is the ideal vehicle for his sometimes confessional lyrics, but it suits his music very well too. He sits at an upright piano, the like of which you often find in a church such as this, with a rounded tone and a pitch that suggests the piano tuner has just been employed. He’s there for the piano-led numbers, but moves centre-aisle when the guitar or vocals alone are employed. Around him are a quintet of musicians adding drums, bass (guitar or double), backing vocals, violin and cello to the mix. Each of their elements is crucial to the overall success of the balmy night.
The songs are delivered with little fuss, the set front loaded with excellent songs from One Piece At A Time, then sprinkled with numbers from the Veils back catalogue that transfer easily to the new instrumental combination. When on piano Andrews is arguably at his most effective, the full chords supporting the ultimate star of the show – his voice.
It is a deeply emotional instrument, pleasingly rough at the edges and capable of deep longing in wistful songs such as What Strange Things Lovers Do, while summoning impressive resolution for the likes of The Spirit In The Flame. The crowd are largely respectful of the moments where the volume drops, the atmosphere of the church in the middle of the evening heady and close. There are however a couple of troublesome moments where audience members opening a beer diffuses the atmosphere to laughter, before the assembled gather themselves once more.
The singer is undaunted, delivering magisterial accounts of Veils songs Swimming With The Crocodiles, Birds, Axolotl, Not Yet and his coup de grace, The Tide That Left And Never Came Back. For this particular listener it is a regret not to hear anything from the excellent Sun Gangs album of 2009, but no matter, for the songs are consistently well written and carry great lyrical interest.
Andrews is a dreamer, for sure, but by his own confession a glass half empty approach is the norm. There is pain wracked through his voice when describing uncomfortable allusions to relationship breakup, and a strong sense of loss runs through his more emotional musical asides. In response there is a palpable gathering of strength, the power of his voice at full volume easily carrying above the instruments.
It is an intense gig experience, made all the more special for the candlelight and acoustics of the venue. With a set of emotionally cleansing music such as this, Finn Andrews confirms he remains in very rude songwriting health.