Maybe I have poorly-positioned ears, low tolerance for discussing last night’s Nandos, or an incurable sonic snobbyness - but it really pisses me off when crowds chat at gigs.
Jamie Woon’s gig at Kentish Town Forum tonight (17 May), from a performance perspective, was great – but it was also one of the loudest quiet gigs I’ve been to. By no means is the venue an intimate setting for some soul. But neither is it a football stadium, blasting out anthems and laden with piss-filled plastic pint glasses. It requires a bit of give from both sides of the gig; and whilst Woon’s music is never going to fill a stadium, nor does it deserve the kind of white noise underlying it that featured on Tuesday.
Perhaps it’s partly down to the music’s need to stretch itself when positioned outside the safety of headphones. Woon’s genre - electronic soul with a touch of Spotify and chill - has garnered him fans from all corners since Mirrorwriting came out in 2011, and his return with no.2 Making Time only last year. The latter’s step out of the bedroom and into D’Angelo-influenced modern soul has been great – but in a live context, struggled to truly engross a restless crowd outside of standout “Sharpness”. Meanwhile, old material went down surprisingly well – an acoustic rendition of "Shoulda" was possibly the highlight of the night, managing to control the crowd much more than "Little Wonder" before it, which had so many people “shhh”-ing that Jamie Woon “thought he was at the seaside”… one of his only remarks the whole night.
Setting the atmosphere to one side, the setup was good – two slick backing singers provided some depth to Woon’s nimble vocal, and had some slick moves to boot. The band were clearly sold into the vibe Woon is aiming for; several being collaborators of cancelled support act and funk-supremo Royce Wood Junior. Regardless, they certainly earnt their way through some nice touches to tracks which were otherwise mostly true to the record. A scat breakdown accompanied the end of “Forgiven”; debut highlight “Night Air” nudged itself towards more recent material with a disco interlude; “Celebration” subbed in one singer for Willy Mason’s part, and unshackled the synth for some solos. “Skin” was also beautiful with just the backing singers – apart from the near danger of being drowned out by the crowd.
But is this just the modern expectation of gigging? Just as recorded music is now our backing track for top-up shops, gym workouts and bleeding radiators – is a gig just seen as place to spend a night with friends, to chat at the back and little more? Fingers crossed I’m just a grumpy sod with badly-shaped ears, because the alternate answer's depressing as fuck.