Review by Adrienne Frances and photography by Wayne Fox.

Tonight we take a trip to the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath, Birmingham to see songstress Jesca Hoop supported by Lucas Oswald.

Jesca Hoop - 1

Lucas Oswald has a quiet stage presence, but akin to that of Hoop. When he speaks, people listen. His quietness is not that of someone who is shy, but instead of someone whose words have weight and are considered.

Lucas Oswald - 3

Lucas Oswald - 8

Hailing from Texas, and having worked on a number of projects including Sheargold (I was unfamiliar, but discovering this was an offshoot from Okkervil River, my ears perked right up!) he’s supporting Hoop on her European tour, and had nothing but glowing words to say of the singer:

“Jesca Hoop is one of the coolest and weirdest people I know… Let’s all dote on her!”

Lucas Oswald - 2Lucas Oswald - 4

His voice was gentle and disarming, with melodies reminiscent of Keaton Henson, but with more formulaic song structures. Which is no bad thing. ‘Colours that I like’ was a beautiful treat dedicated to his wife’s penchant for acquiring sick and injured animals from shelters when he is away on tour, and ‘Whet’ made me curious about what the rest of his new album might sound like.

Jesca Hoop - 13

Utter silence as Jesca Hoop took to the stage. I’ve seen her a number of times, but never in the Midlands, and yet everywhere I’ve seen her the audience is almost unnervingly silent and attentive. Hair piled up, red crinoline skirt, ruffled red blouse – she was, as I’d hoped, an incarnation of eccentric in the best possible way, and as usual appeared to give no.. concern to what others think of her!

The majority of the set saw Oswald accompany her, along with a drummer and another woman providing harmonies and accompaniment – though these two weren’t introduced at any point. Hearing Hoop with others on stage was a new experience, and with a set that compromised of many tracks from The House that Jack Built, I could see why she had such a full stage presence. Sadly for me, it’s my least favourite album of hers – though the crowd loved tracks such as ‘Dig this record’ and ‘Peacemaker’.

Jesca Hoop - 3

Jesca Hoop - 10

My favourite Hoop moments are those when she is raw and isolated. Tracks such as ‘Hunting my dress’ were as beautiful as ever, complete with a reworked set of chorus harmonies with her mystery female accompaniment. Her single from earlier this year ‘The Lost Sky’, was even more stark than the album version, which sated my desire for her darker melodies. This was followed by ‘Deeper Devestation’ which was a track I’d never paid much attention to, but seeing her perform it live, with long drawn out breaths and deliberate pauses made me want to go and listen to it all over again. Which is SURELY one of the reasons to see live music – to relearn why you love an artist?

Jesca Hoop - 6Jesca Hoop - 8

Due to the nature of the venue, she paused before the final track to inform us all that it was indeed the final track, but that she wasn’t going to leave the stage as there was nowhere to go, and instead we had to pretend she’d left, and she’d then choose whether to do an encore. Which of course she did, and dedicated it to Mike Joyce of the Smiths, wishing him a swift recovery. The other joy in seeing Hoop live is her chats. Her streams of consciousness as she exposes the inner working of her mind.

The encore was swift, but ‘City Bird’ has been a favourite of mine since I saw her perform it with Sam Beam, and her a Capella ‘Storms make grey the seas’ was a beautiful and lonely way to end her set.

(Unsurprisingly 5*!)

Jesca Hoop - 11

Lucas Oswald
One night on my mind
Long long year
Feel it again
Colours that I like

Jesca Hoop
Memories Are Now
Animal Kingdom Chaotic
When I’m Asleep
Havoc In Heaven
Songs Of Old
Hunting My Dress
Dig this record
The Lost Sky
Deeper Devastation
Cut Connection

City Bird
Storms Make Grey The Seas

See the complete Jesca Hoop + Lucas Oswald photoset here.

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