Siv Jakobsen + Sofia Music + Rachael Hannah McCaul + Gary Stewart – Gaslight Club, Oporto, Leeds, 19th January 2015
As the Gaslight Club fast approaches its seventh anniversary, it continues to deliver on its promise. Run by Nick Simcock of local independent record label Dead Young Records, it enjoys a regular Monday evening slot at the Oporto bar in the heart of The Calls area of Leeds. Attracting a wide range of local, national and, in tonight’s case, international talent, the Gaslight Club assures you a warm, welcoming and relaxing atmosphere in which to enjoy some of the best emerging singers, songwriters, bands and acoustic acts that are around today.
Hosted as always by Gary Stewart, the exiled Scots singer-songwriter and bass guitarist with local legends Ellen and the Escapades begins the evening in his now customary fashion by playing a short set of his own. Long before he gets to an impeccable reading of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence’, the influence of Paul Simon on his songwriting is apparent. Immersed as it is in a folk tradition, Stewart’s own ‘Sticks and Stones’ and ‘Watertight’ possess much of Simon’s early flair for imagery and storytelling. With each passing show, Gary Stewart’s stature grows.
The three female singer-songwriters who then follow – Rachael Hannah McCaul, Sofia and Siv Jakobsen – are all connected by relative youth, a raw emotional honesty and an undoubted personal resilience that permeates through their songs. And like Gary Stewart before them, they also share an unerring ability to interpret the songs of others.
Local singer-songwriter Rachael Hannah McCaul embraces David Guetta’s ‘Titanium’, stripping the 2011 chart-topper of much of its pop veneer to reveal the fortitude that lies at the song’s heart. Sofia also goes back to the pop charts of that same year with ‘Do It Like A Dude’, and in her impassioned version of Jesse J’s debut single manages to capture her own quest for independence.
And the evening’s headliner, the Brooklyn-based Norwegian Siv Jakobsen takes the covers theme one step beyond by not only opening with Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ – as beautiful an interpretation of this song as you are ever likely to hear – but also by drawing all of the poison out of Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ without losing any of the song’s fundamental sexual edge.
But it is on their own material where the three women really shine. Both ‘Foolish Expectations’ and ‘Grace’ from her debut EP Gone In A Blink showcase Rachael Hannah McCaul’s great big voice and confirm that she is a singer-songwriter of considerable promise.
Sofia – performing here as Sofia Music – is of Venezuelan and Lebanese origin and the passion, pain and, indeed, optimism in her songs reflect the troubled histories of these countries and the personal difficulties she has both faced and overcome. ‘Untamable’ – taken from last year’s EP Once Upon A Time and on which Siv Jakobsen joins on harmony vocals – is truly inspired.
Siv Jakobsen has the capacity to disarm through an almost child-like innocence and a charming line in self-effacing humour. Yet such is the openness of her performance and the confessional nature of her songwriting, Siv Jakobsen conjures up serious thoughts of a young Joni Mitchell around the time of Blue and For The Roses. Jakobsen’s set, including new single ‘How We Used To Love’, and even newer songs ‘Dark’ and ‘Bullet’ is an absolute joy and reinforces the Gaslight Club’s reputation for consistently introducing its Monday night crowd to new and exciting talent.
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