Review: Lewis Watson at Talking Heads, Southampton (21/09/2014)

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There is no doubt about a queue for each of Lewis Watson’s gigs, as his continuously growing followers are all eager to see him live. Over an hour before the door’s set to open there was already a long queue outside Talking Heads, a handful in the front were wearing Lewis Watson’s merchandise from his very first release, affirming how dedicated his listeners are.

The whole night was a buzzing and filled with immense brilliance. From the solo acoustic performance Andreas Moe, to the harmony geniuses that are Amber Run, and the star of the night, Lewis Watson.

If someone can sing a heartfelt heartbreak confession beautifully but not in the form of a full on ballad, Andreas Moe’s the man for the job. Moe has a wide vocal range that is both gentle and genuine with just a ripple of despair, and the acoustic guitar provides an even more soothing touch to Moe’s sound. If you listen carefully to the lyrics you know his experiences are not necessarily the jolliest of tales. Moe doesn’t weight it down further than needs be; he still gets the emotion across, and puts a bittersweet smile on your face as his singing draws you back to that distant similar experience of yours. Relationships are the groundwork of Moe’s songs, his most recent single ‘Ocean’ is about taking a plunge into love when “ the right person loves you at the right time and in the right way” so the river inside you can turn into an ocean. Isn’t that a beautiful metaphor in the most uncomplicated way?

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Don’t be mistaken that even though Moe came a long way from Stockholm, he’s no stranger to being in the UK. He splits his time creating and playing music between London and his hometown.  His first UK gig dated back to early 2012, he has also supported Lucy Spraggan in Southampton Guildhall last November. If you happen to take notice to the Swedish music scene, then you would’ve heard or known Moe’s vocal has featured twice in Avicii’s tracks; ‘Fade into Darkness’ and ‘Last Dance’.

Moe builds his following slowly, song by song and fan by fan, and going on this tour is certainly bringing in new listeners. His set closed with the crowd harmonising with him on ‘This Year’, and may I just quote the lyrics “this new rhythm has a vision I can feel”. He has made a long lasting impression, especially as after he left the stage, part of the crowd continued humming the harmonies during the interval.

Nottingham’s Amber Run warmed the crowd up even more. Having just released their third EP Pilot, the five friends, who met at university, were clearly in high spirit when they began their set on stage. In August, The Mahogany Sessions released an enticing acoustic version of their latest single ‘I Found’ with London Contemporary Voices, the video fully exposed their impeccable harmonies, which is only one of the many talents Amber Run has to bring to their listeners. The live drums from Felix Archer were very prominent, hyping the crowd up with ease. Aforementioned ‘I Found’ was even more incredible to listen live.

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Will Jones (guitar), Tom Sperring (bass) and Henry Wyeth (keyboard) accompanied the singing but they did not outshine the core attractions of the song; the tightly intertwined vocals and the honest emotions. ‘Heaven’ from their second EP shows lead singer Joe Keogh’s solid and round vocals, but not without a tinge of slight sorrow, that merges with the themes and lyrics of their songs immaculately. During their set, each of them had celebratory tequila shots for the release of their new EP. They seemed to have enjoyed themselves on stage, exchanging looks and mouthing to each other with smiles from time to time. It was quite obvious that the crowd loved them as well, as they willingly clap along to a few of the songs and gave the band a good prolonged cheer as they walked off stage. For a relatively young band to create such mature sounding materials that is so warm and lush, their efforts and dedication is very admirable. Be sure to catch them live as they embark a new Communion New Faces Tour in November.

You could not mistake the anticipation for Lewis Watson, as each of his touring band members took their positions. The buzzing did not stop, even after Watson greeted the room. Joining him that night were also his friends, whom always managed to shout inside jokes and banter back to Watson that made him break into smiles or laughs mid song. Watson opened his set with ‘Stones around the Sun’, the lead track of his debut album The Morning released back in June. If you have seen any video from Watson’s gigs, you would know in each and every of those the crowd would sing every single word back to him as they are that familiar with and loving of his songs. Just like Moe did earlier that night, Watson also gave the audience a little more insight to what the song was about and what it meant to him, but more often he would remark “if you have been there, you would understand, if you don’t, then you are at better places”. Gracing the listeners with his signature soothing vocals and minimalist instruments, the songs speak for the many tales of Watson’s previous heartbreaks and friendships. They are honest relatable sentiments, making it so easy to connect to what Watson tries to express.

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One thing that is absolutely consistent with Lewis Watson throughout his songs, gigs and interactions with listeners online, both on and off stage, is his humbleness. He thanked people for being there and listening after each song; he remains down to earth despite his success since he started it all on YouTube back in 2010. Although he has been on various tours, Watson is still not entirely comfortable with making eye contacts as he sings, closing his eyes mostly as he performs. This however brought out his emotive vocals even more as he sung his poetic lyrics, opening his eyes with a big smile when he realised the songs were being sung back to him or listeners had joined in for the harmonies. There was a feeling of intimacy throughout the gig. When Watson questioned if anyone had got his first EP or requested them to join along the clapping, the crowd never turned him down. That is why it was quieter still when Watson played a new song ‘When the Water Meets the Mountains’. This new song sounded tighter, with drums as the chorus rolls in. The crowd were not kept still long as Watson invited them to join in the “chanting bit” at the end. It is extraordinary how Watson moves the song forward with the aid of guitar riffs and drums while retaining the tranquil quality he possesses.

Watson’s performance was an exhilarating experience; it was uplifting to be in the same room as people who are so supportive of his music. No one should miss out on this tour, with three strikingly impressive talents.

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tea & coffee fueled lifetime music fanatic and avid gig lover

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