Review + Photography by John Hayhurst

The newly stripped back ‘No Words Left’ album tour leaves audiences gasping for more, Lucy Rose triumphs in Leeds at the City Varieties Theatre.

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Newly stripped back and emotionally raw feelings abound on Lucy Rose’s latest album ‘No Words Left’. It is a record that demands attention to listening, preferably with headphones and no interruptions, no idle chatter about what to have for tea or, when are you going to go to the bar? But, how was this all going to be transferred live to a stage?

Rose had already dropped out of a large worldwide promotional tour with Passenger to concentrate on making music for those that would actually listen to her, rather than gossip during her set before the main act came on stage. I believe the album in time will be regarded as one of her finest moments, and whilst she has accepted that this now means she needs to play smaller venues to get across that intimacy of performance for the few that listen, those few have also got to play their part by being silent through each track.

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Surprisingly, it completely works tonight in the all seated theatre that used to house the 70’s ‘Good Ol’Days’ TV music hall recreation programme. Instead of noisy raucous folks dressed in Victorian costumes, we get studious people of all ages and as Lucy Rose takes to the stage, very polite applause – we all got the memo, please listen, watch, don’t talk!

A group of six musicians duly file out and take their places on the strangely sloping stage, we have a string section at the back, a guitarist but no drummer, this is something that Rose quickly discounted from her band before writing the new record. However, there is a percussionist to add those nice softer beat moments with shakers and bongos. Then, the all-important bass player Ben, not only is he critical to the whole operation, but he helped tease out the sombre melodies needed for such an emotional album.

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Rose seats herself at the piano and we have openers ‘Solo(w)’ and ‘Nobody Comes Round Here’ with her hardly moving apart from leaning back and closing her eyes to take in the moment. The test tonight will be what songs make it from her previous 3 records to this new desolate era and sombre mood, the days of the sugary ‘Like an Arrow’ have probably long gone, replaced with a cry of pain and mistrust more associated with a Joni Mitchell album. Rose more than resembles Mitchell in her tone, vibrato and the occasional look tonight too.

Moving from piano to the centre stage, she pauses and plays an instrumental piece, just her and guitar, the same strum over again. I could hear myself swallow and the goosebumps on my arms pop. ‘Is This Called Home’ was a reminder of how great her previous album was, the opening to a new independent world and similarly Moirai from that album fits in perfectly with the theme tonight. Wave after wave of emotion pours into this theatre, everyone is fully immersed, and yet still desperate for the next soaking.

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The centre piece of the show was ‘Treat Me Like A Woman’ with every available ounce of energy poured into her performance, the feelings of inequality, personally experienced over the last 18 months, displayed in her facial contortions and vocals. Following that with ‘Moirai’ and then a brilliant ‘Nebraska’ played on the piano (as it should be), we had 3 tracks from 3 different albums all feeling like they crystallised together. Rose admits that the only song to make it to this live show from her 1st album was ‘Shiver’ and that was purely because she still likes the track and has a new string arrangement written for it.

Hardly speaking in-between the songs, but when she does we hear humorous tales of how nobody is now sick, having gone through weeks of touring where someone in the band has been ill, and also after spotting someone in the audience she recognised from a message that morning – she wished her a happy 24th birthday in the front row. These human touches bring that intimacy to life and provide a little light in the very dark shade tonight.

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Rose even apologises saying “Sorry the record is a bit depressing; this last song probably sums it all up for me”. The lyrics for ‘Song after Song’ open with “song after song after song, all about me and my misery” and she brings Samantha Crain (support act) up for some beautiful backing vocals. With no encore tonight, the lights go up and we sit mostly still in silence, a little glassy eyed, but full of those warm feelings – like watching a despondent but emotive movie.

Tonight, was a chance to reconnect with one of the finest British singer songwriters around. There is little doubt that this album has taken some of her fans away, but over time I believe it will age like fine wines are supposed to and will attract many more followers. Meanwhile, Lucy Rose is happy to play to those that listen, and you will only get 1 more chance in the UK this year to see this show at The Barbican in London on December 4th.

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SETLIST: Solo(w), Nobody Comes Round Here, Second Chance, The Confines of This World, Is This Called Home, What Does it Take, Just a Moment, Treat Me Like a Woman, Moirai, Nebraska, Conversation, No Words Left Pt.1, Strangest of Ways, Shiver, Save Me From Your Kindness, Song After Song (w/ Samantha Crain)

LISTENING: No Words Left – latest album released March 2019

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