Vera Blue at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
Any artist playing a Monday night is embarking on an uphill struggle. Expect a throng of punters just off work, milling around chatting and only semi-aware of the live act. Luckily for Australia’s latest export, Vera Blue, the audience were her own. There was a committed crowd and an atmosphere of palpable anticipation in the back room of Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen when the singer, Celia Pavey, came on stage looking like a young, auburn-haired Cher, with her guitarist/electric drummer, shrouded in electric blue traffic light-like lights that beamed over the room.
In lieu of introductory ad lib, they began playing First Week, the opening track of her most recent album, Perennial. An electric organ floated dreamily as she sang, characteristically stopping for a beat before the drop. Cue gulping electronic kick drum behind a wall of sound rhythm section, her floaty vocals giving the EDM sound a psyche-pop finish. This sound was very much the foundation and the scaffolding of her entire set. In many ways, Vera Blue came across as a more immediately commercial Maggie Rogers. The more well-known songs she played, Regular Touch and Give In, with their swaggering clap-track drum beats and soaring choruses, are far more energetic than anything in Rogers’s repertoire, but Pavey seems not to take the creative risks for which her peers are known. Maggie Rogers’s sweet and supple vocals textured with interesting vocal phrasing and minimalist soundscapes are more rich with character and, on the other end of the spectrum, Lorde embraces the EDM nature of her art pop with more integrity than Vera Blue can lay claim on. The gig ended up seeming stuck between the two, never quite one nor the other.
At one point, the artist joined the hordes of countless other electro-pop singers that dance to a big EDM riff whilst hunched over a synthesizer. But mid-set Pavey donned a large acoustic guitar that dwarfed her slight frame and began plucking away at an acoustic version of Cover Me. Through a forest of generic electro-pop brightly shone one of the prettiest folk ballads. It was a worthy centre piece that divided up her set perfectly and for a new listener was quite the party trick. Though more comfortable in her top end, the singer soared through octaves effortlessly, showcasing an impressive range and unlike many of her contemporaries that consider syncopated vibrato as a formal prerequisite, Vera Blue boldly jumped from one solid note to the next with a simple, catchy flare. Finishing on Private – another soaring chorus – this with a staccato electronic-high hat tapping away like a metronome, she played it safe and stuck to what she knew. However, it’d be a disservice to the energy of her music and the euphoria in the room to say this was anything other than a good thing.
Photo: Justin Higuchi
For further information and future events visit the Vera Blue website here.
Watch the video for Private here: