The pleasant, yet bitterly cold walk up Walton Street somehow seemed an appropriate beginning to an evening of minimal and intense music.
Opening the night is WALL – tonight a three piece – though on paper the band is just a female ‘producer, writer and vocalist’ from London called Lyla Foy (the first artist to be signed by Black Cab Sessions’ new label). WALL’s set consists of warm flowing synths and distant distorted beats, decorated with rigid bass lines, guitar, jangling synths and vocals. Foy’s vocals are fragile and intense that float over the room and above the grounded keyboards. Her range and use of subtle effects evokes the talents of St Vincent and Allison Goldfrapp. The overall feel to the set is one of hyper detailed minimalism, presented in an enchanting and effortless manner.
Following this delicate minimalism is a line-up that appears largely the same: a leading lady who is flanked by two instrument-wielding gentlemen. But the resulting music is quite different. Saint Saviour is the new project from Rebecca Jones (singer with The RGBs and Groove Armada). The confidence she has from her experience is clear from the very start; bringing her own musically-synced light show to The Jericho is quite daring. It is pretty and works well, but it does feel a little overwrought in such an intimate venue. That said, there’s enough bounce and pep wrapped up in Jones to distract anyone. Her songs clearly have their roots in the chilled-out sounds that she started her career with, but today they are combined with a more upbeat, party feel. Imagine Elizabeth Fraser working with M83, fronted by Cyndi Lauper’s hipster cousin. That’s what the audience gets at The Jericho, even topped off with an M83 cover.
My main contention with Saint Saviour’s set is that it is clearly very pre-programmed. Facing outwards to the crowd are two laptops that produce the majority of the sounds, which run from one song to the next without the musicians’ help. The guitar and bass are live over the top, but it feels a little like Jones is just singing over a backing track. As good as the result is, I’d rather there was more live performance and less studio rigidity to the songs – music doesn’t have to sound the same every night.
The first half of Saint Saviour’s set is over quite quickly, resulting from the lack of the usual three band line-up, but the crowd still calls out for more. Jones sits down at the piano and plays two beautifully delicate and personal solo songs, much more in the vein of a traditional singer/songwriter. It is reminiscent of a live session from someone like Florence Welch with its strong piano chords and soaring, emotional vocals. In contrast to Jones’ straight-forward dance-pop songs, these last few songs really show her true talent.
Saint Saviour is clearly the work of a skilled and experienced musician who is having fun. It results in some great music, but the encore leave me wanting more of the passion that Jones brings when it’s just her and her piano.