Tuesday, April 14, 2009
THE TOFF IN TOWN
It’s a tightly packed, warm and noisy room that Jessica Says has assembled here tonight to help birth her album We Need To Talk, which in itself is no small achievement. Selling out the venue at 21 years old with an entirely self-penned debut album upon which you play almost every instrument and assembling the young talented band she has is the hallmark of someone who has ambitions and the wherewithal to achieve them. She needs to talk, and a lot of people are listening.
After dazzling and crowd-pleasing sets from rising stars Darren Sylvester and Dick Diver the sliver of a girl, Jessica Venebles, leads her four-piece band on stage. Dressed like a backing dancer from Rhythm Nation-era Janet Jackson, the music rapidly overtakes the impact of her prepossessing appearance. Opening with the We Don’t Falter the room has clearly heard these songs before and likes them a lot. The warm subtleties added by the band’s violin, cello and drums (played by Nick Venebles, Stella Gray and Jamie Power respectively) are seamless expansions that lend the feeling that the songs are growing on their own rather than by design.
“This is the first time we’ve ever played last,” says Jessica humbly, “I feel like Cinderella.” Despite the sound mix not being up to the usual impeccable standard the Toff delivers, and the chattering back quarter of the crowd preventing the spellbinding wonder these songs are capable of producing, it is a warmly received and brilliantly played concert. New song Oliver is a further great addition to her repertoire, the duet with her brother Be My Child stunning in it’s oddness and bravery and album tracks His Mother’s Ring and Set The Night Upon You are gorgeously rendered.
While this show proves her talent is in no doubt, and in noting the careful progress she has been making, it’s easy to imagine that once she steps outside of her influences and finds her natural voice she’ll be a major artist. For now, it’s hard not to be won over by the lyrical dexterity, musicianship, and graceful style; as the Toff is tonight.