Hushed silence falls over the dusty, candle-lit St Pancras Old Church, permeated only by the popping open of beer cans in the crowd. Support act Reb Fountain opens the show with a wonderful set, bringing together folky and funky elements with her syrupy voice. Her bandmate’s light plucking of the guitar or minimalist piano fills the gaps and elevates Reb’s powerful vocals. It’s a good thing that her performance doesn’t end here, as she returns to provide backing vocals for the main act – the last date of Finn Andrews’ UK and European tour.
Andrews opens with ‘Love, What Can I Do?’, a hushed acapella performance to begin, with his band slowly joining in and building the marching rhythm of the song. There is a minimalism to the performance that hints at the stripped back nature of his album; his debut solo record. ‘The Spirit in the Flame’ gives us more of the same, with a slow driving beat and Andrews’ husky vocals carving out a melodic narrative that tells a story with more than just lyrics. The drums here feel a bit superfluous, distracting from the sensitivity of Andrews’ performance, but they more than make up for this in ‘Stairs to the Roof’, providing a thunderous and dramatic foundation to a rendition far more powerful and emotionally charged than that on the record.
‘Swimming With The Crocodiles’ takes the band on a more melancholic path, an impassioned ballad with a slow driving bassline, interesting melodic patterns in the chorus creating a sense of mystery. This is echoed in ‘Birds’, a song from Andrews’ back catalogue as the front-man of ‘The Veils’, this new version however feels a lot more organic and complex than the Veils’ rendition. Amazing work from the drummer here again, the drums seeming to cascade over each other, lending a sense of dynamism to the song.
There is definitely a sense of melancholy to Andrews’ work, but there’s also hope in a subtler sense. The patient layering of instruments makes the highs more powerful and the lows more peaceful. Any sense of peace is abruptly disturbed, however, as the band launch into ‘Axolotl’; a powerful, pulsing, and almost frightening song, balancing gothic and electronic influences to create a piece of pure theatre. ‘Not Yet’ gives off a somewhat Celtic vibe, all set over a driving railroad rhythm and more cavernous drums. The strings come in here with some lovely choppy bow-strokes, lending again to the drama of the performance. And if a good drama ends with a death, then ‘One by the Venom’ does the job as it tunefully lists a thousand ways to die.
Andrews’ has put everything into this performance, and the result is a brilliantly powerful and emotionally charged set that builds on the contemplative melancholy of his album, theatrically exaggerating the emotion at the core of his music. His love for his craft is apparent as he returns to the stage for a three-song encore; a much softer and stripped back offering here, culminating in ‘House of Spirits’, the hushed vocals and minimalist piano bringing the concert full circle; a fitting epilogue to this tempestuous musical journey.
Finn Andrews’ debut solo album ‘One Piece at a Time’ is available now via Nettwerk Music Group.