Charlie Simpson - O2 Islington Academy, London
He might have been used to bigger venues in his past musical life but it’s unlikely that Charlie Simpson would have witnessed such a cacophony of squeals and screams that constituted last night’s audience at the sold-out, rammed Islington Academy during that life. Someone near us proclaimed his sound to be like rainbows in their ears and while that might be a tad hyperbolic and just a touch odd, there’s no denying that witnessing Charlie and his band in full flow is infectiously entertaining, veering from all-out hoedown (‘All At Once’) to sumptuous, harmony-driven ballads (‘Sundown’) at the flick of a switch and equally flawless at both.
It’s all helped by Charlie being an effortlessly confident front man; the kind that’s unafraid to throw the odd curveball at his audience. Tonight, this comes in the form of a cover of Cutting Crew’s ‘(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight’, replete with a harmonica solo. It’d be madness to say it’s as good as the original, but it’s an enjoyable diversion and just further evidence that Charlie feels as comfortable in his solo shoes as he’s ever been. He pulls out the fan favourites in the form of iTunes-only album track ‘Please Let Me Go’, which he performs stripped-back with just one of his band, and ‘When We Were Lions’ from his pledgers-only debut EP. Unashamedly, he indulges in some audience interaction during ‘Cemetery’, breaking it down for a crowd-driven harmony section and they duly oblige; you get the feeling he could have asked them anything and they’d do it in a second, except maybe stay quiet.
Everything all adds up to one of the most solid and enjoyable sets we’ve witnessed this year, with not a beat put wrong nor a moment of drag; all the more impressive when you factor in that Charlie had to postpone his Manchester gig as he was in danger of losing his voice. Could we have pictured us saying such a thing if someone had asked us at the turn of the year? Probably not, but that’s the beauty of taking a chance. With a KOKO date already set for next year, one thing is certain though: Charlie Simpson might soon be revisiting venues from his previous life.
I NEED A FRIEND TONIGHT
DOWN DOWN DOWN
(I JUST) DIED IN YOUR ARMS TONIGHT (Cutting Crew cover)
PLEASE LET ME GO
ALL AT ONCE
WHEN WE WERE LIONS
FARMER & HIS GUN