- Credit: Archant
The Lewisham-raised musician doesn’t yet have the songs to back up her range, but still produced a rip-roaring night for the fans, says Greg Wetherall.
With a career that stretches all the way back to the late-90s, through collaborations with artists such as the Cinematic Orchestra and Zero 7, it is astonishing to think that the South London-raised and Zimbabwe-born Eska only saw fit to release her debut solo album earlier this year.
Having been narrowly pipped to the post for the Mercury Prize by piano balladeer Benjamin Clementine only a few weeks ago, her gig at the Islington Assembly Hall maintained an air of jubilant celebration. While she may have left it unconventionally late, it is fair to say that she has certainly made an impact.
Getting down to business, her band wasted no time in exhibiting their expressive chops, before Eska launches into Heroes & Villains. Bathed in sanguine lights that mix their scarlet hue with smoke, her red dress was initially camouflaged in the mix. She is a big presence though, and stalked the stage with furrowed intensity, demanding and commanding attention in equal measure.
The set moved from genre to genre and, for all of the impressive breadth to her musical range, its disparate nature made for a slightly disjointed live experience. Her music is frequently overwrought but rarely soars, and the hushed whispers that mutter a Kate Bush comparison flatter to deceive.
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That is not to say that this was a gig without highlights; the extended She In The Flowers mellifluously percolated through its passages. Likewise, Rock of Ages shone brightly and the delicate So Long Eddy glistened with its jazzy chords, her voice all the while fluctuating between a Robert Plant wail and a Joni Mitchell chime with impressive versatility.
Finding time to pack in a funky cover of The Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction and her breezy Shades of Blue, replete with its Arabian-style hook, she momentarily departed before a venue-deafening roar urged an encore. She duly obliged with the low-key This Is How A Garden Grows.
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Sometimes good things do truly come to those who wait, and that very notion was palpably reciprocated between Eska and her audience. Despite reservations, this is an highly talented multi-instrumentalist on the cusp of great things. Let’s see where she goes from here.