Fans have arrived early to the Institute to cement a prime spot ready for tonight’s headline act.
But first, The Half Earth meekly walk on stage — a solo project from singer and guitarist Conor Stephenson. For this tour however, Stephenson is accompanied by Ben, who is helping him out on keys and synth. Stephenson comes across as very self-effacing, and almost painfully shy onstage as he begins his set. His vocal range is impressive, although sometimes overly masked by heavy reverb.
For fans of the ghostly vocals of Bon Iver, Stephenson’s music is full of soul, and gut-wrenching builds that resonate throughout the small venue. It’s the kind of stuff you’d expect to hear increase in volume during a particularly heart-braking movie scene. It builds and builds. And it hits you in the gut.
The Half Earth produces a short set that is ambient and echoey. “End” appears to be the most appreciated with members of the crowd who have decided to give him a chance tonight. But it’s clear that everyone here is waiting patiently for Lucy Rose.
Since touring with Bombay Bicycle Club and featuring on several of their tracks, Lucy Rose has released her solo debut “Like I used To” which she dips into on stage tonight, choosing fan favourites such as “Middle of the Bed” and “Shiver”.
“Shiver” is admittedly quiet and modest, featuring minimal input from the five piece band that stand with Lucy on stage. But it allows for Lucy’s flawless voice to stand alone, gentle but strong in its delivery. The crowd chime in during the heart-braking refrain.
And if we turned back time
Could we learn to live life
That’s not to say that Lucy Rose is incapable of warmth and humour. She is undeniably charismatic yet down to earth. She explains to tech that she can hear a resonating sound in her ears. She apologises to the crowd for being “so unprofessional, but I sound like Darth Vader in my ears”. The crowd wait patiently for monitors to be turned down, and the band swiftly pick up where they left off — playing perfectly crafted pop songs.
The set is made up of a lot of new material from forthcoming album “Work It Out”, which is set for release this July. New single “Our Eyes” is upbeat and undeniably influenced by Lucy’s time playing with Bombay Bicycle Club. Her new tracks are spotless guitar-led pop songs with bass lines that dance along with the crowd at the Institute tonight.
Lucy Rose has clearly grown in confidence over the past couple of years since the release of her debut album. She has honed her craft down to near live perfection. Go see her now whilst she is modestly touring small venues. You’ll be hard pressed to find a British female musician who offers a more stirring live performance than Lucy Rose.
Review: Lisa Coghlan
Phtographer: Katie Foulkes