fri 26/02/2021

Jarrod Lawson, O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire | reviews, news & interviews

Jarrod Lawson, O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire

Jarrod Lawson, O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire

Articulate lyricist and adventurous composer warms a jittery Shepherd’s Bush

Jarrod Lawson: lyricism, depth, brilliance

Having released a self-titled debut album last year, soul singer Jarrod Lawson has been on a European touring offensive for much of this one. Very charming it has been, too, landing Lawson Soul Artist of the Year title at the 2015 Jazz FM Awards, and a string of stellar album reviews. Saturday’s London Jazz Festival appearance – there’s a lot of jazz in Lawson’s harmonic keyboard adventures – was the final night of a month-long European tour.

Having released a self-titled debut album last year, soul singer Jarrod Lawson has been on a European touring offensive for much of this one. Very charming it has been, too, landing Lawson Soul Artist of the Year title at the 2015 Jazz FM Awards, and a string of stellar album reviews. Saturday’s London Jazz Festival appearance – there’s a lot of jazz in Lawson’s harmonic keyboard adventures – was the final night of a month-long European tour. On the evidence of the Shepherd’s Bush crowd, he already has loyal fans who know his music, and their number is increasing rapidly.

There’s a sharper, lighter edge to his voice live than on record, which I found better suited to the dextrous demands of his lyrics. On disc, some subtle multi-tracking and extra vocal depth works when the voice is so close up, but in a large hall, the unprocessed sound gives exceptional articulation. His tonal control is sensational: notes that start sounding one way are massaged into all sorts of shapes by the end of the breath, enabling him to create sudden, breathtaking effects with a momentary shift of accent or emphasis.

The covers – Stevie Wonder and Lewis Taylor are favourites – instantly become his own

He sang most of his album, showcasing songs that marry technical lightness and emotional weight. “Sleepwalkers”, about the “pride of the people”, is a soloist’s extravaganza of brilliant vocalisation, in which Lawson danced through stunning, switchback close harmony arrangements with the backing singers. There’s so much going on with his voice, that little is needed from the band: the flecks of funky bass and light-touch drumming were just enough. “Walk in the Park”, which given the subject matter could easily have been a throwaway piece, is actually a serious discussion about life struggles, decorated, all the same, with astonishing vocal virtuosity. Musical lyricism is combined with serious thought with such skill that both are enhanced. His spirituality is worn lightly, but with his other originals including “Redemption” and “Spiritual Eyes”, there’s a moral depth and seriousness running throughout his work.

The covers – Stevie Wonder and the neglected British singer Lewis Taylor are favourites – instantly become his own. With Wonder, the Motown brass is stripped out, and a leaner, vocally very precise sound emerges. His version of Wonder’s “I Wish” has less of his rambunctious funk, focusing its energy on drawing out the lyrical nuances. Instead of jolly nostalgia, there’s a touch of neurosis, accenting the song in an entirely new way.

Lawson has developed a regular duo with Portland singer Tahirah Memory, who has recently released her own album, Pride. They’re a great match, Memory his equal syllable-for-syllable in her virtuosic vocal embellishments. Her song “Alright” had more of a West Coast feel-good mood about it than Lawson’s more introspective compositions, but it showcased her acrobatic lyrical brilliance superbly.

There was a nervous atmosphere in the hall after the horrifying events at the Bataclan, but such was the warmth and energy from Lawson and his band that a huddle became a swaying, cheering throng. As testament not just to Lawson’s ability, but the power and value of live music and art, it was compelling.

His tonal control is sensational, creating breathtaking effects with a momentary shift of emphasis

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Comments

Surely some mistake. Not only did Jarrod Lawson open with a cover which for an artist attempting to break should be down as epic fail 101 - he then donated the entire opening of the second act to someone who frankly would be have been hard pushed to find a job as a BV on a cruise ship. Mugging and gurning at the audience - she pulled our focus as she came on at the opening of the show for goodness sake - she then ordered the audience to join in - not once but three times - surely you must have heard the heckler who answered when she demanded of the audience "where were we" to which the reply "we're all asleep" had a hefty number of the benused audience around me giggling into their beer - those that she had not already sent to the bar. How did Lawson make such an error - one can only surmise that Ms Memory - really??? - is fulfilling a far larger function than second rate BV in Mr Lawson's, but this I neither know nor care. Its time we all stood up and said loudly that cliched Jazz Sister behaviour is bad enough when accompanied by a modicum of discernible talent. In this case Tahirah Distinctly UnMemoryable sent a large number of people to the bar and your critique is at best a shill and at worst entirely misdirected. Far better to have advised Mr Lawson that when an audience turns out to possibly risk their lives the night after a terrorist outrage in a neighbouring city and pays good money to see the artist of their choice, he does not insult them by giving a full and very long six numbers to someone else who frankly would never have secured a gig on her own "merits" in the first place.

Never mind the vitriol... What a pointless, needlessly vicious diatribe from 'Anonymous'. But should I be surprised when the author of the comment describes Paris as a 'neighbouring city' to London? 'Nuff said. My goodness. Leaving the splenetic attack aside, this is a beautifully and intelligently written review. Alas I could not make the show but Matthew's eloquent descriptions brought it to life. Thank you. Keep good journalism alive. Shalom x

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