REVIEW gig Matt Woods Communion Music New Faces 2016

Communion Music Presents New Faces 2016

Communion Music have now been around for 10 years and they have that crucial knack of finding new talent to showcase to the world, in the 10 years they have championed the likes of James Bay, Bears Den, Rae Morris and Jack Garratt to name just a few who have gone on to greater things. So it’s not unusual to find that their eagerly awaited and regular ‘New Faces’ tours are sold out.

Tonight I’m in St Stephens Church in Shepherds Bush for the London date of the tour and the queue outside is further testament of Communion Music’s drawing power, and the guaranteed quality of the line-up. However, tonight the four acts are relatively unknown to me, so I’m approaching them all with an open mind and no preconceptions.

Taking my seat in the front row pew first up is ‘Matt Woods’ and this lad from Cornwall has an exquisite soulful voice reminiscent of Hozier, but with more emotion conveyed in his delivery. Moving from deep to almost falsetto the full range is covered with some lo-fi guitar and electronica backing. Playing tracks from his ‘In the Dark’ EP he captivates and entertains this church hall crowd, where the sound of my camera lens clicking could probably be heard over any audience chatter.

‘Ain’t No Use’ provides a potential dance opportunity but this is far too early for the Shepherds Bush crowd preferring to sit or to get another bottle from the bar at the back. There’s significant promise here though and the half hour set is quickly over with a feeling that it was just getting started.

After the quick turnaround it’s ‘Rukhsana Merrise’, she’s born and raised in West London, so this is a homecoming gig and I guess there were some expectations of a big reaction, it didn’t quite happen and I think this was disappointing for her. Despite trying to get the audience going with encouraging chatty delivery in-between the tracks, and a clever cover of The Weeknd’s ‘Can’t Feel My Face’, it fell a little flat. The mixture of folky soul not quite making the grade for me tonight and that’s with some extensive touring with the likes of Bears Den and James Bay as mentors.

Adam French takes to the front with an abundance of confidence, this is an artist I have heard of, as his popularity is growing particularly oop Norf. His Bowieesque flicked hair look, and with a full backing band made him an easy safe sell for Communion tonight, and overhearing some chatter in the queue earlier, quite a few were looking forward to seeing him.

Kicking off with ‘Face to Face’, title track of his new EP, just released today, was a clever move but this early punch dissolved when he played several more downbeat songs in succession, particularly ‘Euthanasia’ which meanders around without any real sight of ending or intensity. Adam French has an interesting slight gravelly depth to his voice, but the performance just didn’t retain the interest in the same way that Matt Woods earlier efforts did.

Recovering at the end with the more upbeat ‘Ivory’ and the blend of backing female vocals working so well, he thankfully ends on a high, but it felt for me like an opportunity missed.

The headline act tonight is ‘The Beach’ a band, but actually it’s the frontman George who is the writer and key person, and calls himself ‘The Beach’. His sound is catchy, sometimes cheesy pop rock, think The Feeling, Orson, Scouting For Girls and The Hoosiers. It’s not going to change the world, but the entertainment levels clearly rose to the evenings height and with several people now dancing in the aisles to the likes of ‘Thieves’ (2 million listens on Spotify!) and some new tracks, they were making the most of what was an upbeat 30 minutes.

I have to say I left slightly disappointed having had previous Communion Music experiences where I loved every artist that played, been stunned to silence (Jack Garratt, Rae Morris), bought a shed-load of EPs and booked tickets for future shows. Tonight it was a below par performance, a perfect setting but too safe, let’s get some interesting diverse talent next time please!

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