Ed Harcourt, Tom Smith and She Drew the Gun play in beautiful and intimate Stand Up to Cancer concert at Union Chapel
For the third year in a row Islington’s Union Chapel opened its neo-Gothic doors to musical fanatics for a beautiful and intimate concert in support of Cancer Research UK and Channel 4’s Stand Up to Cancer campaign. Swapping bibles for beer and religious hymns for indie rock, the night raised awareness and funds for cancer research while packing arena-names into a listed 19th-century church.
Compered by a voluble Chris Stark (BBC Radio 1), the evening ebbed and flowed smoothly from playful music to serious matters and back. Between acts, Stark deftly summarised Stand Up’s aims, delivering a convincing sermon to the congregation seated in the pews. Throughout, videos shown on a large screen above the stage explored the urgency of the charity’s campaign by examining the harrowing journeys facing those affected by cancer.
Performances were as varied as Stand Up’s aims diverse. Shropshire-born newcomer Sam Johnson and brothers Max and Archie Davenport of The Modern Strangers kicked things off, before a seriously funny Lewis Capaldi made his audience laugh and then cry, Grace, off his latest release Breach, proving a melancholy masterpiece. And on her politically charged six-minute musical poem Resister, She Drew the Gun’s Louisa Roach eloquently expressed the desire for change underpinning the night as a whole.
After a 30-minute break in which the audience thronged the Chapel’s lovely bar, Editors’ Tom Smith delivered a solo-performance that moved the crowd to the edge of their pews. Especially his piano-led rendition of Blood, off 2005’s hit album The Back Room, drew a collective gasp from the audience. In a delightfully unexpected turn of events, he then called his good friend Andy Burrows (We Are Scientists, ex-Razorlight) to the stage, and the two played together just like when they toured in 2011 as Smith & Burrows, covering Roy Orbison’s timeless classic You Got It as their final act.
Like all of the evening’s performances, their set was stripped-down to a bare minimum – guitar and piano. In the absence of loud drums and massive speakers, their voices’ presence was amplified. Nowhere was this more obvious than during Ed Harcourt’s closing one-hour set. On Furnaces, off his eponymous 2016 album, cascading piano solos were matched only by ferocious vocals, the Chapel’s impressive acoustics elevating his spectacular voice to new heights.
In the end, none of the performers forgot the concert’s cause. On the night’s swan song, Sunny Days Make Me Sad, Harcourt’s eulogy to a close friend lost to cancer, the singer reflected on the evening as a whole and the important battle still ahead. And so, as a contented crowd bled slowly into the street to face the snowstorm that had only just begun, all were painfully aware that the fight against cancer too remains far from its conclusion.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit Stand Up to Cancer’s website here.