Review: Charlie Simpson @ Oxjam 2011

This week has seen Dalston's Oxfam store transformed into a unique venue which is hosting live music to raise money for charity. Tonight it's the turn of the acousticians to play their part for Oxjam

In a small Oxfam store in Dalston there’s row upon row of legendary records- Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd to name but a few (some not so legendary. NB. South ParkMr Hankey’s Christmas Classics Soundtrack) and so it’s only fitting that this is the setting for a host of musical offerings from some of the most talented up-and-coming singer song writers.

As the crowd settle in amongst an array of interesting shoes – ice skates, wellington boots and vintage slippers, the atmosphere is that of a normal music event. Despite the unconventional setting it seems the perfect place for a gig this evening, microphones are at the ready, amps are plugged in and the lighting is set, even the bunting is playing its part.

Scott Mills casually appears to the delight of the onlookers and he introduces a seemingly shy and innocent eighteen-year-old to begin the proceedings. Charmingly, she introduces herself as Gabrielle Aplin and begins with ‘Panic Chord’, masked in dim blue lighting and smoke. Her confident vocals are met with complete silence as she progresses through the first track, showcasing an impressive ability, both instrumentally and vocally. Aplin cover’s James Vincent McMorrow’s ‘We Don’t Eat’ which she confesses made her cry the first time listened. Her version is both delicate and powerful, there are surely a few tears in the room tonight which aren’t an adverse side effect of the smoke machine. ‘Home’ is the final offering from this soulful songstress as the confidently explores the guitar strings and she bids fare well, remarking, “thanks guys, its been a weird one”. 

Benjamin Francis Leftwich moves the evening along and the slow movement of the lighting as he starts to perform fits perfectly with his ghostly vocals and mellow style. He cultivates listeners with offerings from his debut album including ‘Bottle Baby’ and a song he has yet to record, ‘Break The Day Open’. Since it’s so quiet (the audience are in such awe) he decides to part with the speakers and plays an acoustic version of ‘Maps’ armed with just a guitar. The performance evokes a dreamy atmosphere as his voice is soft and quiet, yet every word is clearly sung; a truly special moment tonight. He finishes with a perfectly performed version of ‘Atlas Hands’ achieving a unique connection with the crowd.

As Charlie Simpson and his band prepare to go on stage the audience are raring to go, either they’ve been making very good use of the makeshift bar near the back of the shop or they’ve already noticed the arrival of a considerable amount of guitars and various other instruments. Either way there’s a huge applause for the final act.

Thorns’ and ‘Cemetery’ open the set and it’s clear that Simpson’s new musical direction is a big success. The songs present a folky rhythm teamed with rustic vocals and complex layers of keyboards and drums. It’s obvious that any Busted reminiscence is long forgotten (but never pardoned) and his new found musical maturity is resulting in a well deserved appreciation from the crowd. He passionately powers through ‘Sun Down’ and ‘Hold On’ showcasing some impressive anthemic vocals. The confidence in his performance is a tribute to his new found comfort as a solo act. There’s plenty of opportunity for a bit of folk style dancing as ‘Down Down Down’ progresses, which the audience gladly accepts as the band jam together on stage. Simpson moves onto an honest performance of ‘Parachutes’ which demonstrates that despite a schizophrenic tendency to change musical direction, he’s mastered a solo project in a highly commendable amount of time and perfected it live too. The audience sing along to a cover of Noah and The Whale’s ‘Life is Life’ before the show finishes with ‘Farmer and His Gun’. The band bid say their goodbye’s with an instrumental backing and in true Charlie Simpson style, rock out, before leaving the stage with a heart felt thanks.


Click here for an interview with Charlie Simpson