MAKING a living as a musician has its challenges – and many talented live performers have struggled, especially in the past two and a half years as a result of lockdowns.
Although further lockdowns are unlikely (famous last words), a cost of living crisis now lurks menacingly in the background. As a result, some lovers of live music may be forced to cut back on their outings out.
It is therefore to PizzaExpress Live’s eternal credit that it is striving to make live music more accessible – as well as providing a platform for promising singers to showcase their talent.
In conjunction with ‘whispering’ Bob Harris’s Under The Apple Tree, a promoter of new musicians, PizzaExpress Live (Holborn, London) hosted a wonderful evening event on Tuesday October 5.
Wonderful in the sense that four young musicians were given the opportunity to demonstrate they have the tools to be real musical forces. While the impending closure of the nation’s railway network did them no favours, those who rocked up to see them thoroughly enjoyed what they heard (and ate). Tickets cost a friendly £15.
While Tom Bright (a poet as well as a musician) had only travelled a few miles south to show that he is a hugely talented individual, Bailey Tomkinson (and boyfriend guitarist Jordan) had come up by car from St Ives, Cornwall – starting their journey at nine o’clock in the morning. (I do hope they didn’t drive straight back after the show).
Even more impressive was Jack Harris who had popped across the pond (the heaving Atlantic) to deliver three heartfelt songs. That’s enthusiasm for you.
Youth, talent and songs written about the tough times we live in – covering everything from loneliness through to environmental issues – connected the four musicians.
Bright, with a deadpan Derbyshire delivery and a likeable self-deprecating manner, set the scene with a series of songs underpinned by some searing (and witty) lyrics – pithy lines such as ‘NHS stripped to a vest’ (Bless Our Generation) and ‘be a protective pyjama’ (Knight in Shining Armour, a song written for his new wife).
His ode to the pub – he was at one stage the country’s youngest pub landlord – was both exceptional (‘a remedy for loneliness’) and relevant given the widespread closure of local pubs. His next single, Somewhere Anywhere, was full of angst and regret – ‘I won’t go back to the bookies, I need help!’ It will be released next year when Bright issues his third album.
Yet it was Bright’s final song, If I Met Your Shadow, that melted the hearts of many listeners. Achingly beautiful. I heard someone whisper Bob Dylan when he had finished his set. Slightly over the top, but Tom has a bright future for sure (I even bought one of his vinyl albums). Derbyshire’s answer to the bard.
Like Bright, Bailey Tomkinson has a talent for writing powerful lyrics. She also possesses a voice that has had some comparing her with Taylor Swift (in her early days) and Emmylou Harris.
While somewhat shy on stage, she was at her best on the piano (rather than her beloved guitars), delivering a powerful ode to Kurt Cobain (Last Glimpse) and a belting cover of Carole King’s Will You Love Me Tomorrow.
Other songs to hit home included Bright Red – a forthright protest song about the conflict between big business interests and those who live (as opposed to holiday) in Cornwall.
Graceland, based around the commercialisation of the late great Elvis Presley, was clever while Receipts In My Pocket summed up the hardships faced by many musicians – somewhat lost, often feeling down, and frustrated by the Government’s tepid support for the arts. Beneath Bailey’s gentle exterior is a fiery soul. She’s going far.
With the jaunty Harris breaking Tomkinson’s set with three songs highlighting his good voice and lyrics – ‘kisses hit me like an anaesthetic’ – this was a night for emerging talent to shine brightly.
Under The Apple has vowed to bring more acts to PizzaExpress Live next year. How bloody fantastic. Thank you Bob, thank you PizzaExpress Live.