Alessi’s Ark at the Purcell Room
Marking the launch of her third album with a string of tour dates, Alessi’s Ark (the musical project of London singer-songwriter Alessi Laurent-Marke) starts with a performance at the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room.
It is perhaps a strange venue for Alessi’s rather folksy style: the room is a little too big to feel intimate and the décor recalls a lecture theatre rather than a live music tent. Yet her demeanour – open, a little unpolished, often funny – makes it very easy to feel altogether closer than might otherwise be the case.
Alessi starts by thanking the audience, apparently thrilled to be able to perform. That sense of real emotion continues throughout the set as she displays nervousness, excitement and elation in varying measure. Marking the midpoint of the evening with a joke about turtles is unusual, a little gawky even, but also quite charming.
Drawing heavily on her new album The Still Life, Alessi starts the night with breathy, celestial track Sans Balance. It is a powerful opener, although some of her other songs – The Good Song and Big Dipper, for example – can tend towards being dreamy to the point of vague. At times, Alessi comes across as a wistful younger sister, writing sweet songs about life and love, but without much substance.
However, as the set progresses, we sense a different timbre, as a number of songs proffer a rather darker hue. Afraid of Everyone and Veins Are Blue reflect more earthed moments and allow Alessi, backed by a talented band, to project greater feeling. The Rain is a gorgeous song about loss that plucks the soul like a guitar string and is all the better for being performed acoustically due to technical issues on the night.
These are truly adult songs that have the audience transfixed. No one leaves early and a sprightly encore starts with Hummingbird (from debut album Notes from the Treehouse). It tells a bittersweet story that again showcases Alessi’s ability to add real emotional depth, given the right material.
It would be impossible not to warm to such a giving performer and Alessi’s Ark is much more than that. A talented songwriter with a smooth voice, she produces a show that is gentle yet often genuinely moving.
Photo: Paul Bridgewater
For further information and future events visit Alessi’s Ark’s website here.
Watch the video for The Rain here: