JP Cooper @ o2 Institute, 8 December, 2017

JP Cooper has had a smashing year; hit singles “September Song” and “Perfect Strangers” were the standout songs of the summer, finding Cooper bouncing between summer festival stages all while mingling through dates on his own tour. With debut album Raised Under Grey Skies JP Cooper solidified his spot as the hottest pop singer songwriter on the radio and charts, bringing his chill vibes and poppy excitement to stages across the world. An unfortunate illness prompted JP to cancel his original Birmingham gig; fortunately JP Cooper found his way back to our stage, delivering an emotionally uplifting and authentically real show.

Singer songwriter Rhys Lewis opened the gig; transforming the small cold room into a valley of warmth, his songs are perfectly reflective and intimate. Wooing the crowd Lewis crafted a lovely moment of time that captured the soul and essence of a gig. After a quick turn around and amidst stark black and white lighting JP Cooper nonchalantly sauntered onto the stage, the first display of his humble authenticity that would make an appearance throughout the night.

Title track “We Were Raised Under Grey Skies” opened the night. Stripped and acoustic the song had this pleasing sedated demeanour. With fans watching in wonder the khaki jacket and black hat clad Cooper opened his soul in a vulnerable attempt at creating an escapist landscape. No frills, no loud clashes or flashing lights, Cooper started the show with stilled brilliance that was truly an awe-inspiring moment to behold. It was not all sedated slow turners, after the ground shaking start Cooper crashed into “She’s On My Mind.” The pop-infused uptempo banger is part flirty part lustful thinking. With an effortless groove and pop infusion the song turned the mood from contemplative to giddy excitement.

“Change” kept the tempo up, the modern pop with a slight tinge of funk displaying the depth and quality of Cooper’s sound while also showcasing his tremendously talented band. The smooth and slow “Birthday” traded blaring instruments with Cooper’s powerhouse voice; circling and filling the room, his exquisite range sounds even more pure and transcendent in person. A quick guitar change and “Satellite” came through. With an almost gypsy acoustic guitar rift, similar to the likes of Ben Howard or Ziggy Albert, the song is backboned by a light playful tone.

“Beneath the Streetlights and the Moon” tempered the pop vibes and instead found Cooper in an emotionally seductive synth sound. With extended keys and a mid tempo beat the song has this vulnerable beauty that reflects on the longing and melancholy of post break up life. “Closer,” a song written for his son, was followed by hit single “September Song.”  “September Song,” a song that was unmissable during the summer, is that light island pop that brings a smile to everyone’s face. As the crowds ecstatic singing collided with Cooper’s velvety voice, a transporting atmosphere emerged, leaving us breathlessly ecstatic.

Hard to follow up such a smashing single, Cooper turned to an acoustic fan favourite “Wait” to continue the lively energy. “Party” and collaboration “Shivers/ Perfect Strangers” were followed by “Passport Home” to round out the set. After some encouraging from fans Cooper and band emerged again to an encore of a John Lennon cover of “Jealous Guy” and rock singer songwriter pop tunes “In The Silence” and “Good Friend.”

In an age of social media most artists are accessible but very few are authentic. While we can follow them and their antics there is still a divide between reality and media. JP Cooper is not one of these; Cooper positions himself in a way that seems overwhelmingly real and authentic. This is seen in his continuous chatter with fans, it is seen through his genuine humbleness that radiates from his inner being. It is seen in his gratitude and acceptance of his new role as a success.

Cooper follows this authenticity with poetic playful songs that are at both times contemplative and amusing, a balance that many miss. At the O2 Institute JP Cooper returned to play a standout show, pouring out his soul and voice amidst an eager crowd.

Reviewer: Kylie McCormick

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