MENU Half Seas Over @ The Vortex *Review*

Half Seas Over @ The Vortex *Review*

June 7, 2010

‘The great thing about live music is that when you least expect it, along comes a gig that knocks your socks off. You have nearly no expectations, it may even be a band you’ve never even heard much material from. Last night at The Vortex in Dalston was one such occasion. I was a regular visitor when the Vortex was located in the messy, but full of character first floor room on Church Street, Stoke Newington (above where Nandos is for those who aren’t familiar with that street). It’s move to Dalston into Gillett Square in some ways pre-empted the areas evolution from slightly edgy to slightly edgy but cool at the same time.

The performance area is upstairs above the open bar. With it being such a great evening, there were folk seated outside and it had a distinctly non-english feel (sunny with smiling faces and not a cloud to be seen). Upstairs is a fairly small room with a low stage area, high ceiling and a bar at one end, café style, round tables scattered with reserved names welcomed us as we took to our table at 8.30pm.

I’m sure it was pretty much sold out when Adam McBride-Smith, Elan Mehler and the rest of the modest, understated group took to the stage. No ceremony or unnecessary speech from Adam, just ‘We are Half Seas Over’ and they began.

McBride-Smith has one of those voices and vocal performances where you stop worrying he’ll hit a bum note pretty much on his first song. He has clearly mastered his profession. A slight figure, Adam has an almost serene eloquence, his delivery is so clear and crisp that even if you were new to their material, you soon feel well versed with the intelligence of his writing.

Elan is a masterful pianist and the two clearly have a strong connection. They were joined by French drummer, excellent double bass player and I believe an Italian lady who changed my perspective of what is possible with an Accordion. A strong group of musicians who beamed enthusiastically throughout both excellent sets.

They worked their way through nearly all the material on their new LP on Brownswood. Highlights being ‘Get me to the Station’, their cover of the Skip James track ‘Cypruss Grove’ and the upbeat ‘Sundays Empire’ where Elan apologetically announced that the owner of the Vortex’s piano may not be too happy he’d smashed the hell out of it in a ‘Honky Tonk’ style.

They did two 45mins sets with a ten minute well-deserved beer and loo break. Every track captured a respectful and silent audience who were lucky enough to share a really special evening of fantastic music.

I love a venue where the artists wander around after the gig and you feel you can thank them for such a wonderful evening without feeling self conscious. We had seats at a table where i could see the world going about their business from the first floor view. as Fixed wheel bikes flying past, kids knocking a football about and Dalston commuters heading home after a long day. It was the perfect soundtrack to a warm, light summer evening.

Thank you Half Seas Over. Shout to missing Brownswood family Tom (aka Nikey). Absolute pleasure to share a table with you sir.

Big up GP, Rob G and Jez Nelson, all in attendance.

MJ ‘

*Big up Marc Jenks for this review, taken from the Brownswood Forum.*