Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Kelly Lee Owens dazzles London at only her third ever live show

11 August 2015, 10:00 | Written by Ed Nash

Despite having two tremendous self-released singles to her name so far, when I get to The Lexington in north London I wonder if, given that she only made her solo stage debut in the last few weeks, it’s too much to expect Kelly Lee Owens to match the quality of her recorded output live.

As it turns out it’s not. The last time I experienced watching a band with such a fully formed vision at this stage of their career was at an early London Grammar show, and I get that same feeling seeing Owens and her band tonight (7th August). Their performance of a short, six song set is so accomplished it’s hard to believe it’s only the third time they’ve played live, such is the confidence and poise with which Owens delivers her magical songs.

Her band, comprising of a cellist, Ghost Culture’s James Greenwood on synth drums and a keyboardist/laptopist, precede her onstage and the cello opens proceedings wonderfully, playing a mournful refrain accompanied by what sounds like a sample of birdsong.

When Owens starts singing there’s that familiar yearning in her lyrics ("‘Did I know it could be so?"). This as yet unreleased opener sounds even better than current single “Uncertain”, which tells its own story of the material played tonight.

By the second song (she says afterwards that the titles of the unreleased tracks played tonight will remain under wraps until they’re released) the cellist looks so moved he appears to be on the verge of tears and again the words speak of unquenchable hope ("Still here, like before"), despite the evident melancholy underpinning the vocal and the music.

Yet when they play the song that started it all, the darkly beautiful “Lucid”, the cellist looks like he’s crying with joy. With samples of her singing from the recorded version fusing with the live vocal, it combines the composed restraint of the original and hybrids into its reworked dance version, giving it a trippier, yet equally beguiling quality.

The swathe of sound created by the four players makes "Uncertain” sound incredibly vast in scope and while Owens is quite rightly the star of the show, onstage they’re very much a band.

Moving like a chilled out bossa nova dancer, clad in a kimono and a long evening dress, she creates a wondrous sense of theatre coupled with the intimacy of her stage manner. With her arms out she points to the audience for the line "Future you…" and puts her hand on her heart for "…Future me".

The closing “Arthur”is essentially an instrumental, with her vocals providing coos rather than any discernible words (with the exception of its title, a homage to one of her heroes Arthur Russell) and to help London get its dancing shoes on she walks into the audience and starts twirling with whoever is nearest to her.

If she’s this good after three shows, one can only imagine what she’ll be like when she has more under her belt. Tonight Owens pulled off the mighty feat of translating her music from the studio to the stage with effortless grace and brought them to life beautifully.

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