Having had a quick flick through the upcoming schedule for SJE Arts, it’s clear that an artist like Lucy Rose is not a regular. The 19th century former evangelist church, turned university owned music and arts venue is the natural habitat for piano recitals and choir performances, however, it was transformed with the aid of some terrific stage and light design to create an intimate and tranquil space to match Lucy’s performance.
Rather predictably, the set began with the opening two tracks from her latest record ‘Something’s Changing’. That being said, there’s a reason so many artists go for this technique and the carefully constructed introduction was a delightful reminder of why there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.
Lucy Rose has a spectacular talent for making such an intimate voice fill a space. This may be due, in part, to the audio set up. It’s clear that a lot of time and effort has gone into ensuring that wherever you’re sat, it sounds like you’re in the front row. For someone like Lucy Rose, you can really notice this. Her vocals are so intricate and detailed, always perfectly in tune. They effortlessly skip across melodies and the transcending whispery vibrato on extended notes were a perfect soothing remedy for the stresses of Oxford life.
The strength of Lucy’s vocal performance was matched by her warm personality that regularly shone throughout the evening. Early on she invited people to sit on the ground just in front of the performance area, an offer eagerly accepted by the younger audience members. There were multiple humorous anecdotes sprinkled between tracks, including one ironically berating her warm up Charlie Cunningham for introducing a cold to the band which ended in an exclamation “JESUS”, which she swiftly apologised for — noting her religious setting — to the great amusement of her audience.
During the more upbeat tracks like ‘No Good At All’ and ‘Bike’ the engagement Lucy has with her audience is clear — she seeks people’s gaze, willing them to join in her delight for the music she’s playing and it works! Despite the seated arrangement of the venue, people were moving, letting go of inhibitions that might be bestowed upon entering such a formal, religious setting. Lucy even requested people sing along during the encore ‘Like an Arrow’, which was raucously responded to, testament to the welcoming environment that she had created throughout the preceding hour and a half.
I suppose the best aspect of the evening was witnessing someone truly loving what they’re doing and projecting that joy onto an audience. During an interlude, Lucy spoke about how after the release of her second album she became disenfranchised with music and came to question why she created/performed at all.
However, during an 8 week tour of South America, which was completely organised and facilitated by fans, she explains how she re-found her love for music. It no longer mattered to her how many streams she had on Spotify, or how many records she sold — the fact that her music was able to affect just one person in a significant and poignant way was enough. And it’s that attitude that makes her such a delight to see. She is living in the present, sharing an experience, a moment, with everyone in the room. At the end of the day, isn’t that exactly what a live performance is all about?