George Ezra is one of those old fashioned singer/songwriter guys – one of the ones who’s done things ‘the right way’. No first single pizza adverts for him. Nope, Ezra is a grafter.
Since his shortlisting in the BBC Sound of 2014, there’s been much talk of him being ‘plucked from obscurity’ and ‘catapulted into the limelight’, but that couldn’t be further from the truth; despite his youthful appearance and niave stage banter, he’s been gigging almost relentlessly for the last few years, regularly commuting from his home in Bristol to play here in London. Those shows have varied in size from east end pubs to to support slots with fellow up-and-coming darlings Tom Odell and Lianne La Havas. So the look of utter bewilderment and sheer joy on his face as he looks out at Dingwalls is understandable.
Tonight’s show is a sell-out and, rather confidently, he’s already selling tickets for a just-announced gig down the road at the Electric Ballroom, scheduled for June. Tickets for that show are available from his merch’ table. “I’m not really used to this headlining thing,” he confides early on. “And I’ve got merch’ for the first time! And two guitars – I don’t even need the other one; it’s a spare!”
He might be new to sell-out crowds, but the most striking thing about Ezra is how thoroughly mismatched the tall, fresh faced, floppy-haired boy before us is with the deep, world-weary voice that seeps out of his barely-moving lips. It’s the voice of a man 50 years his senior; it’s deep, musky, and in equal parts full of sadness and optimisim. He sounds like he’s lived it all, but the songs he plays tonight – from last year’s Did You Hear The Rain? EP and the forthcoming Cassy O’ – tell stories that give the blues and folk he leans towards relevance today.
He sings about trips to Malmo (Get Lonely Lonely With Me) and Amsterdam (Blind Man in Amsterdam), a love song about all the things he’d sacrifice for he’s desired one (Budapest). While the songs have charm – in no small part thanks to his well honed stage patter; he compares his stage moves to Beyoncé, who he tells us he saw live recently, and he tells self-deprecating tales of being heckled at gigs. This is a man who’s used to having to eyeball people at shows, and it’s the voice and his impassioned attacks on his guitar that make him such an exciting prospect. Did You Hear The Rain’s dramatic intro’ isn’t lost on anyone, and he silences the room as he descends into its thundering blues. Equally, upbeat, railroad new single Cassy O’ gets some of the biggest whoops of the night.
It’s a short set; “I haven’t got any more songs!” he protests, after a one song encore, and as he leaves the stage he still looks slightly shocked by the sheer number of people here tonight. We’ve a feeling he’d better get used to it; sometimes good things do come to those who wait.