Live Music + Gig Reviews

Rachel Zeffira @ St Andrew’s Church, London

18 October 2012

Gigs in churches do leave you feeling somewhat naughty. There’s a hint of sacrilege, an illicit feeling of being somewhere you shouldn’t be. And the guilt. Oh, the guilt. Washing over us. Making us feel unclean.

Of course, they also make you prone to grand declarations. Make you want to stand on the pulpit, spread your arms and declare in your best Charlton Heston voice: “And lo, on the eighth day God created Rachel Zeffira. And it was good. Now my flock, go forth and spread the word”.

Well, if He didn’t like it, surely He would have said. We were in His house. He is omnipotent. Given a publicist’s eye for taking innocent enough facts and rearranging them to only ever be repeatable with sufficient air quotes, if there isn’t an ‘Endorsed By God’ sticker on Zeffira’s new album – The Deserters, due out in December – then a trick will have been missed. But you know, this was a gig of such beauty that, given you’d imagine God to be someone with impeccable taste, you assume He wouldn’t be upset with the association.

What follows is not at all bad for a debut solo performance. Of course Zeffira isn’t exactly new to this, having shown her talents on last year’s excellent Cat’s Eyes album, working with Faris Badwan, but it was still an impressively dramatic show. Particularly the start, as she left the crowd completely wrong footed; everyone was watching the small orchestra assemble in front of the altar, only for Zeffira to announce her appearance via a blast of the organ situated behind the congregation. Try doing that in Dingwalls.

She played for a little under an hour, giving us a a taste of the new, some glimpses of the past (a couple of Cat’s Eyes songs) and a celestial cover of My Bloody Valentine (To Here Knows When). Of the new songs, Front Door is dripping in elegant longing, Zeffira’s crystalline voice enhanced by cello and her stone-washed denim clad choir. Given her background as a soprano it isn’t surprising to find her voice has such technical proficiency. But what’s unexpected is the way it warmly bounces of gables and walls, filling the room with fragile personality.

Star is creepier and with its hand-bells and co-joined mass of voices (and, almost certainly the location) almost Christmassy. The single, Break The Spell, is pacier and less classical, almost motorik in its rhythms. It was short, sweet and left you basking in a feeling of situation appropriate rapture. Amen.

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More on Rachel Zeffira
Rachel Zeffira – The Deserters
Rachel Zeffira @ St Andrew’s Church, London