Basia Bulat, Underbelly, Hoxton, London
Monday 01 February 2010
The Underbelly, a tiny pub venue cushioned by draping red velvet, makes a snug performance space. However, without a raised stage, and with constant bar chatter with which to contend, it is not the ideal spot for a solo acoustic performer.
But the engaging Basia Bulat more than rose to the challenge. The 25-year-old, blond-haired, elfin-like, folk-pop singer-songwriter from Canada boasts some full-hearted melodies that many could only wish to write. Her folky songs, often falling in the minor key, have a melancholy edge that Bulat chooses to lean on tonight, bar the lively more poppy "In the Night".
Opening with the entrancing "Heart Of My Own", from her new same-titled album, which features members of Arcade Fire and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, her warm voice is strong from the start. The set misses accompaniment from a live band that would have recreated the richness of her recordings. "Snakes and Ladders", the most heart-swelling song of her 2007 Polaris Prize-nominated debut, Oh, My Darling, performed on acoustic guitar, misses its piano melody and plaintive violins, and the set would benefit from her glorious harmonies. Still, that her songs stand up to such minimal accompaniment shows the strength of her melodies, such as the wistful "The Pilgriming Vine" from her debut. It is testament to her song-writing talent that while recording her new album, Bulat met the folk-blues singer Odetta at a show, shortly before the star's death, whilst she's also currently amongst the best selling artists in the Canadian iTunes single charts.
At a time of pop stars performing behind the bleeps and beats of synthesisers, it is refreshing to see a young singer-songwriter playing a low-key set accompanied by antiquated instruments. "Gold Rush" features an auto harp, which she plucks delicately before fervently strumming at the strings with all her strength. For "The Shore" she introduces a beautifully intricate 100-year-old pianoette, which she plays tenderly on her lap. It is a highlight but for the rising chatter by the bar, so she picks up a mini ukulele for "Sparrow", singing unaided by amplification. The audience is instantly hushed. It bodes well for her brave choice of finale, a traditional gospel song "Hush". Sung a cappella, it both demonstrates her vocal control at its finest and an ability to win over a crowd.
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Windows 10: man updates PC, wakes up to find porn slideshow on repeat
- 2 The 'world's most beautiful vagina' has been debunked by science
- 3 John Green schools morning show hosts after awkward interview with Cara Delevingne
- 4 Bulletproof armadillo puts Texas man in hospital after shot bounces off hard shell
- 5 Doctors declare war on Jeremy Hunt over weekend working 'myths' amid plan for seven day NHS
Why Harry Potter's aged 35, not 26
Frank Ocean, where's that new album at?
Jon Snow: Kit Harington spotted in Belfast where Game of Thrones season 6 is filming
Drake responds to Meek Mill's 'diss' track 'Wanna Know' by laughing at the rapper on Instagram
Game of Thrones to run for at least eight seasons, according to HBO showrunners
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality