I have spent an inordinate amount of time in queues and churches these past few weeks. I wouldn\’t say I\’m proud of it but for some reason I\’m drawn to them. This time I found myself outside St Giles in The Fields church queuing to see the talented Marques Toliver, a singing violinist from Daytona Florida. There was only a small gaggle of people outside the church and, having convinced myself that I\’d secured a guestlist review ticket, I felt cool as a cucumber. After having my ego deflated just a little – the woman at the desk could find my name nowhere on the list despite checking several times – I forked out the cash and proceeded into the church. Still the bruised ego and vacant pocket were certainly worth this fantastic gig.
First up was a charming guitarist/singer who goes by the name of Mounument Valley. A great story teller, he buoys up his tales of love and life with a stripped down melody consisting of a few simple chords. Singing in the estuary voice that has become second nature to many British artists today, he sounds a little like a male version of Remi Nicole. Laughing in between songs and starting the same song three times until he gets it right, this lovely songster provided a soothing start to the gig, I only wish we could have seen him with his the rest of his band who could would have plumped up his sound.
The main act Marques Toliver made his way to the stage followed by a trail of violinists, two backing singers and a trendily bespectacled guy brandishing an electronic harp (I think). His voice is great, full of power and subtlety, he inhabits a tone similar to John Legend\’s, whilst offering the audience a fresh acoustic taste of R&B which, let\’s face it, is in desperate needs of resuscitation. As well as being a faithful saviour of a tired genre, Marques takes his performance to an almost theatrical level: making extravagant gestures and chatting for a little too long in between songs, and crying at the end of one of them, he is most definitely a performer. The presence of three violins was perhaps a little overwhelming and at times it felt like his songs were pulsating but advancing towards no where in particular.
As though he were a mindreader, Marques strips down the second half of his set playing alone and swapping his violin for the electric harp machine thing. Leaving space for his voice to bloom, Marques is at his best freed from the constraints of making sure all the other instrumentalists are in sync – and it\’s a treat. He finished with the much anticipated White Sails which he performed less than a year ago on Later with Jools Holland. It\’s obvious that Mr Toliver is a skilled violinist and some of the best moments during his set are those when the church is silent apart form the riveting sound of his bow coaxing sound out of the strings of his violin. Nonetheless, part of me feels that Marques should heed his own advice and swim this on his own, I guess we\’ll just have to see what the rest of the world thinks when his EP Butterflies Are Not Free lands on 25th April and he plays live at Rough Trade East.
However, despite not being the headline act, the wonderful Lianne La Havas\’ songs still played in my head at the end of the gig. I\’ll try to keep the cheesy adoring tone down to a minimum but suffice to say that I (and probably everyone else at the gig) have been turned into Lianne\’s biggest fan over night. I\’m also going to have to omit comparisons with Corinne Bailey Rae and Andreya Triana on after reading, \’Nothing like Corinne Bailey Rae or Andreya Triana – but we all have similar hair\’ on her Facebook page – which I urge you to \’like\’ right now.
This girl\’s voice sounds like pure organic, free range honey at it\’s smoothest but she can also belt it when she wants. Lucky for us, she\’s also got the charisma to back her beautiful voice, taking time after her first song to assure us that she likes us already -so do we Lianne, so do we. Her fifth song Age, tells the tale of a current predicament involving her and an older man. Suffice to say she has the whole crowd laughing with her teasing lyrics and her musicianship is as satisfying as her lyricism as she moves around her guitar with enviable ease, dishing up some infectiously soulful tunes.
The icing on the cake, however, was not spotting Jaime Winstone in the pew in front of me. No, it was hearing Lianne\’s amazing cover of Everything Everything\’s latest single Final Form which is available to download here– thank God. I need not specify that it is free because trust me once you hear it you\’ll be willing to hand over pretty much anything to get your mits on her addictive rendition of this fantastic track. She trades in Jonathan Higgs\’ idiosyncratic falsetto for a gritty but simple sound, and judging from EE\’s view that it\’s \’gorgeous\’ she\’s hit the spot. I really can\’t think of a bad thing to say about this singer songwriter, who I hope will be in a record store or music magazine near you some time soon.