Justin Nozuka at Omeara
2017 sees the welcome return of Justin Nozuka. Since bursting onto the scene with acclaimed debut album Holly, the American-Canadian singer-songwriter has impressed audiences worldwide with his soulful folk and honest storytelling. A decade later, it seems there has been no love lost as longtime fans filled up the Omeara, keen to hear the songs they fell in love with alongside the sounds of his latest chapter.
The new music in question is the recently released EP High Tide, his first musical release in three years and the first of three waves leading up to the fourth album. Following radio silence comes an upbeat guitar-led soft-rock anthem in the form of lead single All I Need. Nozuka, having recorded with Ben Howard’s producer Chris Bond, hasn’t shied away from Howard’s parallels and influences. The combination with Nozuka’s wistful crooning is a delight; he’s an artist of relevance, not merely a nostalgic throwback.
Typically recognised for a softer, understated studio sound, it was a surprise and treat to see the singer and band coming to life through instrumental breakdowns and plentiful rocking out. This rockier edge demonstrated the sheer talent of all four musicians on stage, with special audience shout-outs to guitarist Andrew Marzotto, but often ran the risk of drowning out Nozuka’s vocals. Crescendoed rock tailed mellow folk and vice-versa, serving up a chunky sandwich of sounds. Although some of the crowd proved restless and sometimes mismatched with the pensive onstage vibes, Nozuka was able to recapture the room’s full attention with his flawless falsetto and floaty runs when it mattered most.
Whilst it was exciting to hear new material, the night also felt like an appreciation of the artist’s greatest hits, especially given this was his first London outing in years. Bluesy tambourine-filled Be Back Soon was warmly welcomed, and Golden Train barely needed a microphone to drive its build-up. However, the largest cheer and loudest singalong belonged to After Tonight. The hour closed with Woman Put Your Weapon Down, with the echoing lyrics “put your weapon down” ringing a different message in light of current, tragic affairs.
At the Omeara, it’s much more about the music than fancy stage production or visuals, and Nozuka’s encore embodied just that. A mic-free rendition of unheard Sail Away Mama demanded complete silence and the finale track, Heartless, burst with heartfelt energy. Fan favourites Criminal and Save Him were absent from the setlist, but Nozuka promised he’d be back soon for another round. With an album to drop in 2018, let’s hope so.
Photo: Justin Nozuka Facebook
For further information and future events visit the Justin Nozuka website here.
Watch the video for All I Need here: