Giles Terera: Black Matter at Crazy Coqs
Giles Terera walks across an eerily empty Piccadilly Circus to renowned venue Crazy Coqs, the perfect intimate Soho setting for jazz and blues-infused Black Matter. Here, the Olivier-winning stage star and Soho resident debuts 12 pre-recorded songs that are a direct response and reflection on the past 12 months. They encompass a range of subjects, from Black Lives Matter protests to empty theatres and lockdown struggles in these neighbouring streets and beyond. It’s approximately an hour of simple but powerful stories, some joyful, some angry.
“London Bridge is falling down… that’s the matter” are the repeated opening lines of titular track Black Matter, which immediately hammers home the injustice faced by black people. It’s sharp, introducing an anecdotal lyrical style and matter-of-fact statements that run effortlessly like a stream of consciousness. “There are some flats, they have some stairs. The lift is broken, but nobody cares,” Terera sings, as he revisits his past in The Flats, showing an organic songwriting process that never feels over-thought. The audience are mere flies on the wall as Terera watches his leading characters outside the window: the everyday people of London.
Unlike the musicals the singer is famed for, these tracks are not necessarily crafted to be catchy. It’s not a singular story kind of show, but the different chapters showcase the performer’s talent as a narrator. He doesn’t shy away from big topics and poignantly introduces certain tracks, such as the dedication to his sister, Nikki, which calls out how black women are treated in his industry, and You Have the Right to Remain…, which is a response to a witnessed incident of police racism. “You have the right to dream… scream… vote… rebel” is proclaimed against the backdrop of demonstration footage and the chanting of “Black Lives Matter”. A spotlight shines upon the crucial conversation around race, with the power of music and art clear to hear.
The entire show is one of deliberate simplicity, from themes to camerawork (Terera only addressing the camera at the most striking or exasperating moments) to self-accompaniment on guitar and piano. Soulful, smooth vocals give a voice to both significant and everyday events, whilst undeniable musicianship is exhibited through the more bluesy arrangements; it’s here that the songs come more alive. It’s an interesting project born from an unpredictable time, released exactly a year after theatres were forced to close. The former Hamilton star chooses to conclude Black Matter on a note of hope looking to the future: “London Bridge is falling down…but we are going on.”
Black Matter is available to stream from 24th until 31st March 2021. For further information or to book visit here.
Watch a trailer for Black Matter here: