Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Review: HMV Next Big Thing - Emil, Alex Clare and Jessie J at Barfly Camden

Sunday's HMV Next Big Thing was a pivotal moment for me. It wasn't just one of those "this is why I love London so much" moments. It was also the moment I realised that I just might love going to gigs more than just listening to music. As in, live music is in itself now a separate passion of mine, and not just lumped into the "I love music" category. I'm not explaining myself very clearly, but I guess if I had to put it into online dating terms, the person I'd like to date would ideally not just love music, but also love going to gigs. I'm a little tired of going to them by myself*, but, at the same time, my gig-going time is sacrosanct and I don't want to spend the time wondering whether the person's enjoying himself.

Anyway, back to the gig. I arrived early enough to catch Emil on stage. I don't know very much about him, but he did sound a lot like Michael Jackson. That's about all I can say, really.

Next up was Alex Clare, someone I'd only just heard of that night, but whose flyer had caught my attention with the words "produced by Diplo and Switch." That's right. The Philly guys behind Major Lazer. I wasn't sure what to expect, but certainly not the white bearded guy who appeared singing what I would have classified as soul with a touch of funk. Diplo and Switch's dubstep influence was apparent in the next song when when Alex launched into Up All Night. His concluding song Relax My Beloved was also pretty damn good. He's got quite the pair of lungs and I'm definitely looking forward to catching him again.

Then up was the artiste all 200 of us crammed into this tiny venue were here to see: Jessie J. Not quite a "Next Big Thing", some might argue, seeing as she'd won the not-at-all pressurising title of BBC Sound of 2011 and had been featured on Later with Jools Holland a number of times. Whatever. I didn't care. It's very rare one gets a chance to see anyone, let alone a singer of her stature, performing in such an intimate venue, particularly a singer who'd just achieved her first number 1 single that same day.

I've got to say she came across brilliantly. She was brimming with self-confidence, talked quite a fair bit and seemed very genuine, down-to-earth and just an all-round good person. She seemed close to tears at what she'd achieved, "trying not to cry at the whole point of being number one." At one point, she asked for the house lights to be turned on to the fullest because "they came to see me but I came to see them."

Her voice was amazing as you'd expect. I thought her songs were not bad, though not brilliant, but she's got a way of singing that makes them stand out. They're not just radio-friendly, they've got a way of getting past your defenses because, hey, Nobody's Perfect, it's not about the money, money, money, and everyone is bruising.

Speaking of which, I really really love Who You Are. I don't know why but the song almost made me cry on Sunday, and it still has the same effect on me now.

Another highlight of the gig was the impromptu song Jessie sang. It's hard to come up with lines on the spot but she didn't seem to have any issues! She's quite the comedian.

As I said earlier, Jessie isn't the Next Big Thing. She's clearly already there.

* The next gig I'm going to, I won't be alone.

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