2019 has been good for me. The nights draw in, the fireworks light up the sky, Christmas calls from around the corner and those of us with a romantic bent can’t help but get a bit reflective. At a ripe old age I’ve finally descended upon London and thrown myself into all that it has to offer.
There are moments from the year, memories that can be plucked from its ether that will register above others. First visits to venues that I’ve since grown to love will always resonate. When I initially stumbled upon Hackney’s fine Paper Dress Vintage, I caught Gazel in full.flow. Gurl were her support band on that balmy evening as well. My review (here) suggests that I’d be a fool to not see Gazel again before the year is out.
St Pancras Old Church is a venue I’ve wanted to get along to for a little while. The programme there tends towards acoustic Americana and that’s right up my alley as regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know. But tonight, in a repeat viewing of that fine night back in May, Gazel and Gurl are once again challenged to warm me up. The seasons have changed; you need a coat and a mulled wine in addition to the acts tonight. The line-up is familiar.
St Pancras Old Church is an odd beast. I’ve been to music venues in decommissioned churches before yet it seems that this space still doubles up as a place of worship. Perhaps that why on entering that the atmosphere feels subdued; it’s like you’re gatecrashing a wedding of somebody you barely know. A cash bar sells an array of alcohol in cans and bottles. I crack open a can as I sit on one of the pew-like seats and feel desperately short-changed when I realise that my beer won’t quite fit in the hymn-book holder of the seat in front.
It seems that Gurl are similarly spooked by their religious surrounds. Their lead singer says as much a few songs in. The vocal range is as impressive as the first time I saw them and yet the overall performance feels more restrained. The songs still stand out as quality as the music ebbs and flows between 80’s influenced pop and fulł-on glam. The band again repeat how they fortuitously met Gazel via a social media connection. There’s clearly much love and respect between the two. And they’re a band you can’t help but like.
Gurl might have been a bit constrained by the church but the opposite is true of Gazel. Where Paper Dress Vintage might have felt a bit too hemmed in, the extra space afforded to Gazel within this venue allows her expansive vision to truly come alive. So, lights in strong shades of purple, pink, white and red bounce around the nave and ceiling of the church like spirits on the escape from Gazel’s Book of spells. This is the official album release of her Book of Spells, a perfect opportunity to marry the spiritual with the concept in appropriate surrounds.
Gazel takes to the stage clutching a miners lamp. Wrapped in a green robe and with long curls running down her back, she’s every inch the fantasy figure from your favourite fairy story. She sings sweetly as her band (a keyboardist and drummer) create the fabric. Like Madonna in her Ray Of Light period, Gazel draws upon middle Eastern rhythm to add flourish to her pop. She dances provocatively and giddily twists, a dervish of fun in a sanctuary of friends.
For some, the pretension within the art might be too much. It’s true that the concept is a busy one that demands attention. And Gazel’s hyperactivity doesn’t cease; she bangs a drum, she reads poetry from her book and now she plays notes on her violin. For most though, the overall impact is engaging. And when all are urged to stand and dance at the end of the set, we oblige. The room has gone evangelical in its praise of Gazel.
With her debut album launched, we wait to see what her next twist, turn and trick might be.