Vocals & Verses has been responsible for bringing some of the year’s most accomplished underground singers and poets to the fore. The Christmas Special edition of the bi-monthly showcase promised to see out the year with a bang. It was a people’s choice version of the music and poetry showcase where the public were able to vote for their favourite eight past performers. The line up for this highly anticipated event included MOBO award winner Rachel Kerr, former MOBO unsung winner Jacob Banks, Soul-folk singer JP Cooper andemotive spoken artists such as LionHeart and G.R.E.E.d.S.
It was a fantastic night of some of the best up and coming talent that London’s live event scene has to offer held at West End’s 229 The Venue. Resident host and comedian, Kae Kurd conducted proceedings while the really quite awesome house band kept the crowd entertained in the breaks with their quirky, soulful interpretations of popular songs.
Scandinavian soul singer, Marie Dahlstrom was the first performer of the evening. Her version of the Phil Collins classic, “In The Air Tonight” was popular with the crowd who whooped and hollered their appreciation when the familiar chorus kicked in. Singer Jacob Banks, whose career has been steadily gaining momentum throughout the year, gave an elegantly paired down performance. He began with a beautifully re-imagined interpretation of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”. Instantly, the uniquely smooth rasp of his vocals almost sent the largely female crowd into frenzy. His performance was a slice of modern cool intertwined with the finest vintage Motown spirit.
MOBO award winning singer Rachel Kerr did not disappoint her fans in the crowd. She performed the heftiest set of the night and was vocally on point throughout her polished, energetic, gospel spectacle. The performance from soulful- folk singer, JP Cooper was one of the many highlights of the showcase. His selection of charmingly humble acoustic songs created a delicately reflective mood, which was perfect for this end of year edition of Vocals & Verses. His set included songs from both his EPs. There were a few quiet groans of disappointment that Cooper did not perform his superb ballad, “The Only Reason”- which is fast becoming a favourite among fans. But nonetheless, Cooper’s performance was completely stunning.
This special edition of Vocals & Verses featured a great crop of talented artists. And although the “Vocals” component of the show was amazing- it was actually the “Verses” component that truly stole the show. The favourite poets from past showcases, once again brought their own unique artistry to the stage, reasserting the power and beauty to be found in today’s urban poetry scene. Open Mike performed his poems, “The Time Traveller’s Wife” and “A Tale of Two Haitians” with atmospheric musical accompaniment from the house band. The softly spoken poet’s hypnotic delivery created calm stillness, which encouraged the audience to listen out for the intricate narrative twists within his poems.
South London poet G.R.E.E.d.S performed excerpts from his extended work “Confessions of a Teenager”. It’s a series of coming of age poems, which document his migration from Nigeria to England and his various experiences during this time. His piece on child abduction was particularly stirring. His powerfully emotive delivery transported the 300+ audience to a reality that seemed like a world away from where they sat. It was a truly sobering experience that moved some to tears.
When emerging poet LionHeart performed his unique combination of politically and emotionally astute poems. You could almost feel a breeze from the collective swoon of the females in the audience. He gave a confident, self- assured performance, demonstrating his artistic appetite for clever word play. Anthony Anaxagorou’s politically conscious performance also stood out- the simple clarity of his poems spotlights the complexity of his message. His set made the audience sit up in their seats and take note.
The night included an open mic section featuring acts chosen by the public plus the hilarious trademark Vocals & Verses segment- The Verse Off- in which, two randomly chosen audience members must wax lyrical about a given subject.
This was a great event. The very well organised, professional yet welcoming attitude of the Vocals & Verses team meant the show ran smoothly and came across as effortlessly efficient. This, combined with all the inspiring performances means the People’s Choice Edition of Vocals & Verses lived up to everything it promised to be. Roll on next year!