Passing through The Bar of Gimmicks at London’s Elektrowerkz – Ed Sheeran on the stereo and all – it’s hard to see how the intimacy of Trevor Powers’ Youth Lagoon is going to translate here. Weaving through a maze of stairwells to the blacklit venue pumping motown, it’s even harder. An Arsenal fan turns to ask me the score. Hell, I’m interested, but if you needed a better summation of the environment you won’t find it.
Given the recognition of his The Year of Hibernation album as one of the albums of the year in 2011 based on its striking emotional bravitas, this whole live scenario may seem pretty terrifying to both the besotted fan and the man himself. Luckily, the anticipation proves to win over the anxiety as Powers takes to the stage.
As the crowd mutes, the subtle chords of Posters and itss soft vocal overpower everything. Removed from the reverberated shroud of his recordings, his vocals take centre stage tonight with an immaculate, heart-rendering performance. The venue seems to swell to twice its berth, silently adoring his every word. Combining all of this with Elektrowerkz’s PA doing its job on appropriately rattling the songs somewhat away from their standard emotional key, the appreciation and scenario becomes far more in tune with the warm atmosphere Powers has so swiftly become known to create.
Proving himself as much an affable artist as an introverted soul, beckoning the crowd forward from their distance, as soon as his tenderly struck first chords emanate, near-silence reins. Loyal to The Year of Hibernation’s delicate nature – bar a couple of additions, the album is played nearly as recorded – its Powers’ voice that holds the most resounding power. Freed from its hazy shackles, each lyric is honestly and purely pushed through the set, giving an amazing section of connection to his own loyal fanbase. So connected in fact that when he asks for more reverb on his vocals, more than a few chuckles sound out. Never cynically, almost with glad faces. Despite being a crowd littered with self-awareness and thriving from the buzz of being around souch an outstanding young buzz artist, there’s wiggle room for the playful.
’17′ proves to be the crowd’s first truly connected moments though. Once the thump of kick drums begins, heads bow and nod in unison. In fact, it only goes to hammer home just what the effect of Powers’ sparsity (ahem) has. Following it up with a sharp rendition of ‘Montana’ – broken from its known anthemry by coarser kick drums and playful keys – proves, indubitably, that Youth Lagoon is something that will soon enough demand stages beyond London’s premiere urban paintball outlet. But even for the loyalist, it’s obvious his more upbeat numbers would translate better, though, with a grander sense of a band. The bouncing synths of songs like ‘Daydream’ seem to stand out in an odd fashion, not quite in-keeping with the crowd’s fixation. But such small qualms for seeing a set of immensely powerful and personal songs performed by an obviously adoring and keen artist are rare.
With the set ending on a rousing ‘July’ – an apt hark back to the track that made him and still holds such pride of place – that feeling of community, excitement and elation reigns. It’ll no doubt be wonderful to see Youth Lagoon to move to bigger and better things. But tonight, his fans had something to cherish as much as the album itself.