LIVE music – thankfully – is back with a panache. And if you want it delivered by the bucketload, Pizza Express Live Holborn (London) was the place to be on Tuesday September 21 as Tertia May confirmed her right to be considered one of Britain’s brightest musical talents. A rising star.
May, who hails from South London, possesses a voice and stage presence that has traces of Amy Winehouse running through them. She’s sassy, she’s brassy, she’s earthy and she sings from the heart. Emotion is her middle name. Not much is left on stage when May performs.
Pigeon holing her is difficult. She’s soulful, jazzy, funky and hip-hop – all in one. Yet the constant is a smouldering voice that reminds you of smokey jazz clubs and drinking Jack Daniel’s late at night. It’s husky and it’s sensual. It grips you like a vice, and it won’t let you go.
What is also wonderful about May is that she writes a lot of the music she plays. Some are deeply personal – songs such as In My Shoes ( all about her father: ‘You let me down too many times before. Never walk a mile in your daughter’s shoes.’ The more personal the song is, the more breath-taking it is. Jealousy was delivered with intensity – ‘it comes from the belly,’ she said. Deeper, me thinks. From within her soul.
Family – her Mum was in the audience – are obviously key in her life as evidenced by a delicate ‘Where We Belong’ – a song about family and being grateful of life. There were references to past failed relationships as with In My Head: : ‘You take it all from me. Pain in my head. Pain in my soul.’ Raw. Very raw. Achingly beautiful. There was also an undercurrent of the soothing influence of religion in Heavenly Thing.
The opening Here We Go Again (a marker for the night), Twenty Two, Sleep and a funky Peanut Butter (yes, peanut butter) and a guitar laden Monsters In Your Bedroom (the finale) were all rapturously received.
Given the Amy Winehouse comparison, it was no surprise that a pared back version of What Is It About Men – with just guitar as accompaniment- was probably the most shattering song of the night. Both stark and beautiful. Also striking was her cover of Jill Scott’s The Way: a song infused with raunchy lyrics about sex.
May has stage presence – and it’s obvious she could be an actress if she turned her mind to it. On stage, she’s witty, engages with the audience, and is quite happy improvising. Her take on themes such as chickens, love and octopuses (chosen by the audience) were amusing interludes. She also likes a wee drop of whisky.
With a good band behind her – some of the subdued, delicate trumpet and flugelhorn playing was spine tingling – May has the potential to make a big name for herself. To its credit, Pizza Express Live has spotted her obvious talent. It is only a matter of time before others will.
Acclaimed EPs such as Kind of Purple and Not From Concentrate display her talent. A new EP, TM Radio, follows in November (a great Christmas present for lovers of good music).
Tertia May: a force to be reckoned with. Mark my words. Check her out. Please.