Bernardo – The Waiting Room – April 29th 2019

It’s a Monday evening and this week’s Airbnb is south of the river. I’m tempted to stay here and chill for it is quite a trek north to Stoke Newington’s Waiting Room. I’ve been meaning to get there for some time but gigs I’ve been keen on have clashed with others; there’s rarely a shortage in this town. 

Tonight though Bernardo plays a free show at The Waiting Room in celebration of the release of her Panic Prayers EP. The EP has come out on cassette format. For a fiver, it clearly represents something of a bargain even if I’m pretty sure that I no longer have the technology on which to play it. 

Bernardo’s on-line profile is growing if not fully-formed. I’m guessing that Bernardo is a surname; searches suggest that the confident, enticing individual who takes to the stage in a ‘Betahoven’ T-shirt with a Fender Jaguar guitar to play a jazz-pop opener is called Sonia. “The band have decided to sit this one out”, she declares.

Bernardo’s band duly join her from the next number; there’s four of them (five if you include Alfie, the excellent trumpet player who joins a couple of songs later). They’re a confident bunch, clearly well versed in jazz and funk progressions. In the ‘brand new one’ which might well be called ‘Almost A Mother’, they’re given space to wig out with solo endeavour. Bernardo is impressed. “I often just play alone and it’s great to have this band“, she acknowledges.

It’s hard to get away from Winehouse comparisons. Bernardo’s vocal occupies a similar space and the songs appear to toy with heartbreak and the darker side of love. Bernardo is compelling to watch on the stage. She rolls her eyes , the lids of which are painted in a pinky red shadow, towards her hairline in playful pose whilst smiling and connecting with her crowd. “We’re going to jazz it up a bit now“, says Bernardo before launching into a version of ‘One Inch Punch’. Truth is that proceedings had already been a tad jazzy prior to that.

Just as this short show began with a solo song from Bernardo so it ends in similar fashion. The band leave the stage and two stripped-back tunes bring things to a close. ‘Sunday heartbreak matinee’ stands out, a chilled comedown of a track after a more urgent weekend.

There’s little doubt that Bernardo is one to watch – and I’m glad I made the effort to head north to do so. 

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