This Lucy Rose article was written by Ian Bourne, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.
The Macbeth in Hoxton is heaving. People are perched on the stairs, tucked into corners and crammed up against the bar – it’s a sold-out Lucy Rose Christmas show. Her band barely fits on the stage, but the roadies manage to find space for a guitar rack, so that they can hand her newly tuned instruments between songs. The event is a mixture of a slick star-on-the-rise show and an old-fashioned, intimate sweaty pub gig.
Lucy Rose races through the break-beats and shimmies of ‘Cover Up’ and says “I’ve forgotten how much of a work-out it is. I’m knackered already.” It’s followed by ‘Lines’, from 2012’s debut album ‘Like I Used To’. The song is slower, but the math-rock tinted changes in pace and rhythm are precursors of the newer material. The band veers from choppy verses to folky choruses and back again, and her voice soars. GIGsoup last saw Lucy Rose playing songs from her first album at Hop Farm on 30 June 2012, the same day as Bob Dylan performed. It was clear then that someone special had arrived.
‘Till The End’ is more straightforward and linear than ‘Lines’, even sounding a bit like new indie stars on the block, Wolf Alice. But Lucy Rose never keeps things simple for too long, so there’s jazzy syncopation and multiple phases. The night’s fourth track, ‘Nebraska’, starts with ethereal synth and achieves something special, utterly stilling the rammed pub as Lucy Rose’s vocals exert total control and focus all eyes and ears on her and her alone. Nothing else matters.
Strapping on her acoustic guitar, Lucy Rose invites the audience to sing love song ‘Like An Arrow’ with her, as it’s “the most stupidly difficult thing I’ve ever written, so please help me out”. The crowd obliges, joining in with the lyric “oh won’t you comfort me, talk to me, you speak so sweetly, oh won’t you stay with me”. Vocally it may be tricky, but the beat is simple enough for a cheerful pub-style singalong: “We took our chance and we flew, like an arrow, like an arrow.”
A football chant of “We love you Lucy we do, oh Lucy we love you” breaks out, prompting a story about going to a football match at Wembley (“I love football”) and meeting Rae Morris, who will later join the band on stage. ‘Shelter’ is the opposite of a terrace chant. Swirling, churning but poppy and folky too — there’s a lot going on: “I won’t say no, and I can’t let go”. Post break-up song ‘Shiver’ is another with special quieter moments that get the crowd rapt. It sounds like a steel guitar, but not in a country way, as Lucy Rose sings, “I’ll leave him just for you,” taking us into double break-up territory.
Lucy Rose’s first single, the folky cross-over ‘Middle Of The Bed’ from mid-2011, prompts more audience participation: “Do you really want me back? ‘Cause I’m over it, over you.” Not long before the track was released, Lucy Rose performed it outside The Crown Tavern during Clerkenwell Design Week in May 2011. GIGsoup was there. Even then, it was obvious that she was special.
Rae Morris, as promised, appears to help with ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ by Shaking Stevens. “Snow is falling,” they sing, on a strangely balmy mid-December night. It’s the only seasonal song in the main part of a set that was dubbed a Christmas Special Show.
‘Köln’ is another dose of dense math-rock, veering on the anthemic. But little pubs aren’t great for anthems, so it turns into another happy clap-along. ‘Our Eyes’ gets a big cheer. “Show me you hands,” Lucy Rose says as if she was at a big venue, but it’s not so easy to keep in time when the math-rock tune turns into a complicated flamenco beat. ‘Bikes’, the last song of the main set, is another old favourite that gets the crowd going: “We’re driving from the back seat, holding on too tightly.” Everyone claps and later joins in with the hook, “everyone scream out loud”, by screaming out loud and singing the final refrains.
As an encore, Lucy Rose covers Elvis Presley’s ‘Blue Christmas’, which she says she’s only learned recently. It’s followed by ‘Night Bus’, played for the first time in England since March and, again, it’s when the sound is at its most delicate that the crowd is most engaged. ‘Work It Out’, the title tack from the 2015 album, ends the night. After the set, Lucy Rose takes up a position next to the stairs to sell t-shirts and vaguely recalls those early days at The Crown Tavern and Hop Farm. She must be thinking “I’m flying, look at me now”, as Nick Cave would say.