Gabby Young & Other Animals at the Lexington
Described as “the world’s finest purveyors of Circus Swing”, Gabby Young & Other Animals are a whirling mix of jazzy panache and flamboyance, capturing the audience’s attention from their very first jangling drum beats. Young, a classically trained singer with operatic power and precision – at 12 she became the youngest member of the National Youth Choir – formed the band in 2008, her love of Jeff Buckley enticing her away from a future in opera. The eight-piece band boasts a cacophony of instruments, ranging from fiddles and accordions to a whole brass section of trumpets, trombones and tubas. Each musician switches easily between instruments; the drummer from cymbals to glockenspiel, the violinist from fiddle to ukulele, their movements undertaken with flamboyant charisma.
Young fronts this musical fairground with bold, colourful theatrics. Dressed in a Lewis Carol style blue pinafore named “Gabby in Wonderland” bursting with beads and lace, she looked every bit the eccentric lead, her pink hair adorned with flowers and bejewelled butterflies. Oscillating effortlessly from slinky jazz to rollicking brass with sections of ragtime, waltz and Balkan influences the band’s set is a patchwork of styles and persuasions, accentuated by swaggering dramatics.
It is an evening full of wonders. Ladies of the Lake, a mesmerisingly eerie number allows Young to exercise her vocal skills making swooping ghoulish wails to jolting brass which clangs on every spine-tingling minor note. The Ones That Got Away combines operatic scat singing with rasping trumpets, the audience becoming swept into the jazzy furore as we are asked to sing along to the swinging brass interludes. New song, Another Ship is a soft and beautiful ballad, its chorus sung in sharp staccato combined with chiming bells, giving a medieval feel. Horatio is a purely theatrical track, beginning with exquisite violin and twittering bird calls it takes on the tone of a spaghetti western, bursting into a gaudy Mexican fiesta with thundering trumpets and jumping double bass.
An exceptional song writer, Young mediates the large jazz sounds with quieter interludes. The achingly beautiful Fear of Flying is a welcome distillation of sound, Young’s quivering vibrato accompanied by gentle guitar, pizzicato violin and swelling cymbals. An unplugged rendition of Honey sees Young enter the midst of the audience, singing straight into our souls.
The evening ends on a high with a song the guitarist guarantees is “designed to lose you 130 calories” through dancing alone and, as the crowd’s heads begin to bob, dancing ecstatically to the dizzying Bulgarian rhythm, the evening can certainly be deemed a success.
Photo: Kate Johnson Metcalf
For further information and future events visit Gabby Young & Other Animals’ website here.
Watch the video for The Ones That Got Away here: