Au Revoir Simone, Alessi's Ark, Callmekat - Union Chapel London

Denmark's Callmekat was the first of two acts to open for headliners Au Revoir Simone at their Union Chapel show. This was the first time I'd come across Kat and her keyboards and it was an interesting experience, enjoying her minimalist musical offerings. I'm liking the tracks I've heard on her My Space since the show, especially her lounge style cover of Britney's "Toxic" so I'll be keeping an eye on what she's up to in the future.

I was pleasantly suprised when I arrived at the Islington venue, finding that Alessi's Ark was also performing as she's one of several acts that I've been meaning to check out for a while. I picked up a promo copy of her debut album Notes From The Treehouse for the princely sum of £1.99 a few months back, enjoying the collection, so a trip to catch a live set was long overdue.

Alessi's performance was in general a very satisfying experience but she seemed to be having a bit of a problem with a cold, mentioning she had a lot of snot before singing "The Dog". This seemed to be causing her to stumble over her delivery at points in the set, especially during "The Bird Song", with the first two song interruptions and apologies endearing, the third embarrassing and fourth - when she decided to knock the song on the head - endearing again!

Of course everyone has their off days and there was no chance of this ark sinking as Alessi managed to pull a simply stunning version of "Woman" out of the bag directly after, followed by a great rendition of 6 Music favourite "The Horse", featuring additional vocals from Alessi's drummer.

Alessi wound up her set with "The Asteroids Collide" but before she did she commented on the shaky part of her performance, saying "Sorry about that bit in the middle. It's suprising, to me, but it happens!"

Alessi was quite communicative with the audience throughout the night, showing concern for a young photographer early on, legging it back to his seat between songs after shooting in the aisles with "You'll do yourself an injury going that fast!" and also expressing her love for the venue's cheescake later in the set! Even though her songs are quite serious she brought a sense of fun to the proceedings between numbers, making it a very enjoyable support slot. I'm looking forward to seeing Alessi live again anyway, hopefully sooner than later.

I've seen Brooklyn trio Au Revoir Simone numerous times since stumbling over them at Austin's Latitude 30 venue while waiting for Tilly And The Wall to appear back in 2006. I last caught the band live in March just around the corner from the original venue at this year's SXSW. After a bit of a delay the band took to the Austin stage around 1 am. I had already been watching numerous sets for around 13 hours so I was bit frazzled by that point so found the whole thing a bit hectic even though the threesome were as lovely as ever.

The ambience that Union Chapel created seemed far more appropriate for the band's sumptuous keyboard led offerings so I was looking forward to their set immensely.

As a rule I'm no fan of seated venues, preferring to stand as near the front as possible, camera in hand or not. However, I managed to procure a place on a front row pew after a few minutes spent scrabbling in the aisle's taking pictures, so I was able to enjoy the show from the best seat in the house!

Au Revoir Simone's UK fanbase has crept up on me unawares as I didn't realise they were so popular, especially after having missed their recent Bush Hall show which I'm since led to believe was crammed. The girls had certainly assembled a large congregation for the evening's "service" anyway, with lots of people even filling the upper level of the church.

The Union Chapel show was the girls' only UK gig this time round as part of a whirlwind European tour, promoting current album Still Night, Still Light. I didn't find the release as instant as their mini album and debut but I'd been living with it for a few months so was eager to hear a few live renditions from it.

This was without doubt the best Au Revoir Simone show I've attended. The girls pulled songs from their current album, The Bird of Music and Versus of Comfort, Assurance and Salvation. The new album was the predominant feature of the evening but the girls did manage to include a pair of tracks from Versus.... A slightly different take on "Stay Golden" due to Annie using the church piano for its spiraling lead keyboard line and "Through the Backyards", a song I've always had a soft spot for but loved even more after viewing this video. A track from The Bird... also produced one of the evening's highlights, with "Sad Song" making an appearance early in the set.

The more reverential setting of Union Chapel gave me the opportunity to really listen to the girls' output, marveling in the way the trio's voices and keyboards blended on new tracks like "Only You Can Make Me Happy", "Knight of Wands" and current single "Shadow". The girls spent most of the show's duration behind their keyboards but Annie made her way to the front of the stage to stomp out some rhythms for "Take Me As I Am" (even with a dodgy leg!) and Annie and Erica hit the Church piano again for set closer, the noisy "Tell Me".

The girls returned to the stage for an encore, performing "Lucky One" from The Bird of Music. As the track is a bit downbeat the trio wanted to avoid an anti climatic ending so gave us "Dark Halls" from the same album. The threesome were in a celebratory mood at this point after probably playing one of their best ever gigs, with Erika appearing in the pulpit at the song's start to bash her tambourine, much the surprise of the other two girls, helping to end the evening on a wonderful note.

I don't know how Heather, Erica and Annie are going to top this one but I'm sure I'll be there at some point to see if they can, possibly back in Austin in March as it seems to be turning into an annual occurrence!

Category Gig Review

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