Singer Jody and pianist Simon formed The Gadsdens in 2006 and have since added a rhythm section to turn the duo into a quartet.
Tonight’s gig at the Oh Bar on Camden High Street was one of the first chances to catch the new line-up debut songs of a fuller sound, and new arrangements of their earlier material that owes its heritage as much to classical piano works as to pop sensibilities.
The piano-led flourish of The Sailor Song opened their set to a packed-like-sardines audience and immediately demonstrated Jody’s perfect pitch. Likened by some to that of Tracy Chapman, his voice added lush vibrato depth to intricately crafted melody and structure to pack emotional punch. But the real surprise was just how mature he sounded in a live setting. Jody is a twentysomething, but close your eyes and you’re listening to Michael Stipe – his at times androgynous voice is one of The Gadsdens’ trump cards.
Another highlight in this set is the sped-up Stalkers Tango, a piece which, as the title suggests, wraps its long legs around you, looks piercingly into your eyes and demands a turn around the floor on a sticky tropical night. Trouble In Mind’s stark piano opening ensures it sticks in the mind too.
Bronski Beat‘s anthem Small Town Boy was here dressed up for the ball by Simon’s luxuriant treatment of the piano backing. From an ’80s pop stalwart he creates a widescreen soundtrack that highlighted the lyrics’ universal emotional connection.
For all that The Gadsdens brought to the evening, they deserved better from the venue. Disgusting toilets aside, a sound man should not spend a set shouting at his mate and gaggles of girls or, with his own microphone at the ready, decide to demand an encore like some kind of half-arsed boxing match MC. It is the audience’s job to request encores if it feels the urge. The job of the sound man is to achieve a sound balance that shows off the act on stage and, judging by the overdriven bass and issues with the vocal monitors, he’d do well to focus on this.
Despite such irritations, the end of the encore came too soon. Top billing and decent venues surely beckon for The Gadsdens, a band making music entirely of their own sound and carrying it off with swagger and style.