Jo Hamilton + Special Guests @ Birmingham Glee Club – Monday 20th April 2009


On arrival at the Glee Club to celebrate the launch of Jo Hamilton’s long-awaited album, ‘Gown’, I was presented with a glass of champagne set with a Hibiscus flower — a gorgeous touch that added to the fairytale ambience.  This attention to detail was present in all aspects of the show; the stage had been taken over by long trails of ivy like an ancient overgrown courtyard, set against a backdrop of twinkling stars.   The crowd were warm and welcoming, chatting in the warm candlelight glow that is one of my favourite features of the Glee Club.  I took a seat amongst a mixture of specially invited friends and family members, some of Hamilton’s collaborators, movers and shakers and paying fans.


A distracting, sinister and slightly inappropriate ambient mood track gave way to the first of tonight’s special guests, The Urban Folk Quartet, playing exclusively ahead of their official debut gig at The Cross in Moseley on 12 June.  I immediately warmed to them; they were playful, talented, clever, witty and just full of joy.  Recently formed, they belted out a couple of toe-tapping instrumental numbers that I could only really describe as a folk-jam and left everyone wanting more.


The first half of Jo’s set kicked off with the instantly recognisable ‘Pick Me Up’.  I thought that this track might lack something live but with full band, keyboards, percussionist and an interesting vocal line it delivered the same immediate punch as it does following the opener, ‘Exist’ on the album.  Jo is strikingly beautiful in the flesh, willowy and graceful like a more sophisticated Alanis Morrisette.    My personal favourite, ‘There It Is’ featured the first of the evening’s guest performers, saxophonist Sowetto Kinch.  His subtle melody added an extra delicate dimension and his presence on stage caused a tangible goose-bump raising excitement amongst the crowd.  Jo was able to move effortlessly from an edgy, slightly jarring chant on the chorus on ‘Pick Me Up’ to much more fragile performance on ‘There It Is’ building up a melodic tide to slowly wash over her audience.  Kinch performed again later on ‘Paradise’ an experimental track also featuring spoken word sample and acoustic guitar.  As he played, he was silhouetted against a video backdrop of a thunderstorm and the distinctive black outline of enormous Madagascan Baobab trees.


The video backdrop was a beautiful artistic work in its own right, pulling the visual and emotional themes of the evening together brilliantly.  Some images were literal interpretations of tracks such as the home-video footage which accompanied ‘Mekong Song’, and others were more abstract and elemental.  During the second half of the set the cover artwork for the ‘Gown’ album had been animated to accompany ‘Deeper (Glorious)’.  As the sun broke through the stormy sky to cast its light on the female figure and the mountain range, so the stage lighting increased, bathing Hamilton in electric sunshine as she hammered home an epic chorus.


I was unable to stay for the whole of the second half of Jo’s set as the evening over-ran, but as I left to catch the last train I felt like I was being dragged back into a harsh reality.  Although tracks such as ‘All in Adoration’ felt a little bit too smooth for my personal taste and ‘Together’ did not have the benefit of live sax and strings, Jo’s stripped down vocals and soaring melodies brought the album highlights to life and showcased it perfectly.

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1 thought on “Jo Hamilton + Special Guests @ Birmingham Glee Club – Monday 20th April 2009

  1. Beautiful photos, that really capture some perfect moments.
    The writing to accompany them swept me right back to the gig and brought a tear to my eye. I thought it was a really special evening; some of the elements you bring attention to, such as lighting, visuals, support acts and Jo herself all represent the Birmingham people involved really well, and I would like to take this opportunity to offer a heartfelt salute to those people who are receptive enough to engage in this city’s vibrant music scene.
    From experience, it is difficult to get good artists some decent attention sometimes and certain organisations can be cliquey or difficult to communicate with as they are either too busy or too distracted to help showcase all the pockets of brilliance going on.
    A great read with really wonderful photos.

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