PIANO Smithfield, sandwiched between the old meat market and the sprawling Barbican estate on the Northern fringe of the City of London, is a hidden gem.
With eye catching art nouveau glass on the ceiling, chandeliers glittering in the dark, and stairs that take you down to the earth’s bowels, this is a venue made for live music.
A sensual, sexy atmosphere with cocktails served to fry your mind (search it out when you’re next in London). Manager James Sayer, an accomplished musician himself, is building something special within the four walls of this intimate venue.
On Friday night (April 15), long after London’s workforce had departed the City for Easter frolics and chocolate eggs, Sarah Jane Morris swept into the Piano Bar.
With her magical musical lieutenants on either side of her – Tony Remy and Tim Cansfield – Sarah Jane proceeded to thrill the audience with her extraordinary voice. A voice that at times is so deep that you feel you are down with her at the bottom of the ocean.
Boy, can she sing. Boy, can she entertain. Boy, is she an advert for everything that is magnificent about live music.
She was supported at the start – and again at the end of her second set – by her talented son Otis Coulter with a voice reminiscent of Anohni (Antony and the Johnsons). For sure, Otis, who writes lyrics from the heart, has one hell of a musical future ahead of him if that is what he wants.
Sarah Jane’s first set was dominated by songs from her album Sweet Little Mystery – a beautiful homage to the late, great John Martyn.
While the audience quietly chomped away on their sticky pizzas, washed down with lethal espresso martinis, Sarah Jane cranked up the emotion with some heartbreaking interpretations of Martyn’s music.
The set started with Fairy Tale Lullaby, moving on to the spine tingling love song Couldn’t Love You More, Head And Heart, One World, May You Never (a song for our time: ‘May you never make your bed out in the cold’) and Over The Hill (a painful acknowledgment of Martyn’s constant battle with drugs and alcohol).
After a break for the collective washing of cheesy hands and another round of mind boggling cocktails from Piano Smithfield’s smiling hostesses, Sarah Jane went all lovey dovey. All I Want Is You, a love song written (by Tony Remy) for her husband Mark Pulsford, was delivered with oodles of love. Mark, an acclaimed artist, watched on rather sheepishly.
Feel The Love, underpinned by feeling, was as raw as sushi – a song Sarah Jane sung at her mother’s funeral. ‘For those who feel loss,’ said Sarah Jane, introducing the song. Heads went down in reflection although the song was rapturously received. No one does feeling like Sarah Jane.
Her cover of John Lennon’s Imagine was breathtaking- the song turning into an anti war song (no war in my name, only peace in my name) and a passionate call to help the world’s refugees. Sarah Jane wore a tee shirt with the same words emblazoned across them – the rather natty top can be bought via her website with all the sale proceeds going to support refugees.
There was plenty more. A sensual cover of Lovely Day (Bill Withers), a thrilling Piece Of My Heart (Janis Joplin), I Shall Be Released (Otis to the fore), and the finale: Martyn’s Don’t Want To Know (about evil). A brilliant sing-along ending to a truly superb night of live music.
Support live music. In a crazy world full of horror, it bonds us all.
Title image by Andrea Romano