September 13, 2002 ... Bloomsbury Theatre
On the Low
- Andrew: This is the second time I have seen hope perform in London, the first being
at the tiny Chapel theatre in Islington with Mazzy Star which turned out to
be one of the best gigs I have ever attended (easy to say though being a big
Mazzy fan!). I very much anticipated seeing her again but with the new band
- how this would differ to Mazzy, new musicians and album notwithstanding?
My girlfriend accompanied me, a Hope/Mazzy fan too, but not to the same
degree as myself. She offered an interesting perspective from the
not-so-fanatical-male-fan angle afterwards.
And so to the Bloomsbury theatre. A venue of approx. 500 and as we know the show sold out. Having heard of all the troubles at some of the US gigs you wondered whether it could happen here. Well, the doors were supposed to open at 8pm but this was delayed to 8.45pm for soundcheck problems (or so the announcement said), so that didn't bode well. The support were on quite quickly and were actually mildly entertaining, if only for the fact that the front man is the son of the late great Ian Dury.
I have little idea of how long the support were on for, but once off there was a massive delay in getting the Warm Inventions kit set up and soundchecked. We easily waited for an hour, and whilst I have no problem with this I was cringing for the band as I knew that other people who did not know what to expect would be getting pretty restless.......and we know what that leads to.
So nerves completely frayed (for Hopes sake) they finally take the stage at somwhere gone 10pm to the general delight of the crowd. There were a couple of heckles about the time it took and had they left it any longer you wondered whether it could have plunged into a pitched battle between Hope and the hecklers. Things settled down though and off they went into On the Low, a nice starter.
Clear day followed but with electric lead instead of acoustic and this was something of a let down, the strident acoustic sound of the album with Hopes voice producing a much more ethereal sound, something which would have worked brilliantly on stage. The guitar built to a screeching crescendo by the end of the song which didn't do a lot for me. By the end of the number you knew the single red light on Hope was not going to get any brighter, I don't know what it was like for the people at the back but I had trouble making out Hope from the centre of the second row! Again, I didn't mind that but you could hear the odd whisper "..I can't even see her!"
Still, THE moment of magic happened shortly after that as Hope sung Butterfly mornings.....this, for me, is what seeing Hope is all about. Her voice, not crowded out by screeching guitar, was just so beautiful. Overall my favourite performance of the whole gig, although it would have been even better with Bert Jansch of course (no offence Mr guitarist).
As far as I can remember the setlist was the same as previous shows. A couple of songs passed and then another highlight, Charlotte. Another favourite and this worked well again being a softer number - this seemed to be the theme of the gig, the quieter songs from the album where you could hear Hope's voice properly being the most effective. I was wondering how the Stones cover would work and this was a great surprise - it was fantastic! Nice to see them grappling with a fat riff and pulling it off and Hope really giving it some as the number demanded.
The band left the stage thereafter and so did about a fifth of the audience from the theatre - this was something that really surprised me as Hope's encores are not exactly easy to come by. My girlfriend summed up her evening saying Hope had not addressed the audience once (no rapport), could barely be seen (no performance) and had come on an hour late (doesn't give a shit) - so why stay? I tried to explain that this IS the performance!
The band came out again to a good reception and finished with two numbers, last of which was Suzanne. The most striking thing about the song were the backing vocals supplied I think by Colm - absolutely brilliant! He sounds so lazy and deadpan he should do an album with Stuart Staples.
A curt thank you from Hope and then they were gone. I was fully sated with hearing one of the most beautiful voices on the planet and seeing some inspired musicianship and of course many other people were too. But this time round there definitely seemed to be a bizarre vibe as everyone filed out. Snippets of conversations included criticism of the sound, Hope's (lack of) presence, overly loud guitars.....not everyone, but enough, were wondering what they spent £15 on. I know my girlfriend did.
And that really sums up Hopes' music live. She just plays for the people who listen and hear magic. If you want any reassurance she needs a fan base, you won't be finding it at one of her gigs.