sat 22/06/2024

Charlie Cunningham, Queen Elizabeth Hall review - Spanish guitar and strong songs | reviews, news & interviews

Charlie Cunningham, Queen Elizabeth Hall review - Spanish guitar and strong songs

Charlie Cunningham, Queen Elizabeth Hall review - Spanish guitar and strong songs

An endearing, intimate set of warm melodies and powerful, percussive guitar

Maximilian Koenig

In a post Ed Sheeran world, with a glut of acoustic singer-songwriters like Lewis Capaldi, Tom Walker or Odell, James Bay, Jack Savoretti  all of whom are big on poignantly penned balladry, phonic flair and harmonious melody – is there room for another young male artist to make waves in the indi-folk arena?

Spotify seems to think so – 6 million streams and counting of singles from Charlie Cunningham’s recently released second album Permanent Way (and 165 million for his first album Lines in 2017) would indicate something special about his particular sonic concept.

There’s certainly something about Charlie's sound that catches you from first listen in a way that the big, more slickly produced artists might have lost – an earnestness, a beguiling simplicity in his voice. There is a delicacy to his lyrics which skirt the fringes of love in a way that is personal but not intrusive; light enough to apply but deep enough to resonate. And then, there’s the playing.

With lambent spotlights surrounding him, Charlie hunches over his guitar, bathed in soft, warm, auburn hues as he strums and taps – a beautiful, intricate rhythm technique honed on a 2 year trip to study classical flamenco guitar in Seville. His fingers flicker over the guitar strings as delicately as the flame dancing on the wick of a candle. It’s enticing, intimate, tactile almost - and adds an extra dimension to his acoustic pop sound. The ambiance onstage is mirrored by soft, enveloping melodies, as he’s supported by synthy drums and mellow trumpet that allow the sound to drift into more lyrical, lilting realms.

Charlie’s been touring a while but still seems to be slightly bewildered at finding himself onstage at the iconic Queen Elizabeth Hall. But his audience is onside as he mixes up well known hits from his first album (“Answers” and “Lights Off” sees knowing fans whooping excitedly) with tracks from Permanent Way, including the beautifully penned song of the same name in which he sings “I’m making my own way… moving into the colour”; reflective of the depth in range and maturity that shines through in his second album. Tango interludes flow into seductive strumming through the poignant and heartfelt lyrics of “Don’t Go Far”, “Bite”, “Monster” and “Headlights”. The essence of Charlie's sound is that he plays those nylons like heart strings – melodically, intently, not always perfectly but always with genuine feeling.

On stage he is shy  in between songs Charlie seems timid and unsure of what kind of chat he should be going for. It’s endearing. It makes the grace with which he slips into singing and playing all the more stunning as well as making the crowd more supportive  as well as simply lost in reverie.

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