Lily Oakes‘ EP debut concert got off to a rocky start. While the Garage’s website stated that doors will open at 7.30pm, at 8 o’clock people were still queuing outside the venue and they didn’t look happy. By 8.10 a security guard started apologising to the frozen crowd, saying that the band had arrived late and were just finishing up sound check. Sometimes that’s the price you have to pay for good music (artists being free spirits, non-conformative and all), but after waiting for almost an hour in the frosty London weather, it’s hard not to think that it had better be worth it. It wasn’t.
Lily Oakes‘ biography paints a somewhat interesting picture. The native West Londoner started writing poetry at the young age of 13. Later on she taught herself how to mix 12” records of old school garage and d’n’b along with her parents’ collection of classic vinyls. Oakes describes herself as having a passion for choirs and orchestrated music, film and cartoon scores and claims this is reflected in her music. And her Facebook page defines her genre as Minimal Trip hop- Classical. All of those create a mysterious air around her and her performance. This, however, did not last long.
At 9pm, after a decent opener by appropriately named ‘Early in the Night‘, the tall and gangly Oakes made her way through the room and on to the stage. She’d been hanging out in the audience, talking to people and even adjusting her wardrobe right there (a friend provided a dress shirt), before it was her turn. Nothing mysterious about that. And just as nonchalantly, she joined her bass player and drummer, introduced herself and started the set. The music kicked off with some electric beats and an orchestrated playback – and the mystery of the classic meets Trip hop was dispersed as well.
Oakes stuck to her aloof persona, hardly making eye contact (or any contact) with the audience. It’s not unusual, to see a singer getting sucked into their own private world, but to make it work during a live show, that singer needs to be extraordinary. And Oakes was not. In fact, she was just about ordinary in every way. Her voice was just present – it’s not bad, she could definitely carry a tune, but she couldn’t elevate it. Her lyrics are also just there and don’t serve much of a purpose (like the repeating “sometimes I feel good. Sometimes I feel God”). And the music had some good beats, and sometimes nice violin or piano hooks, but nothing that actually stood out. The only thing that did stand out were shorts she’d decided to pair with very high heels and a blazer. For fashion, at least, she gets an A.
Oakes‘ brief six-song set ended with a different sounding tune. She explained it was the first songs she wrote with her band, and that’s why it sounded rockier than the others. Oddly enough, during that unrepresentative song, Oakes finally connected with the crowd and even made them sway a little; they were completely still up until then.
There is nothing wrong with Lily Oakes‘ music or performance, but that’s just not enough to make it right. It feels like the soft beats and mastered violins would be better suited for a night spent in bed, rather than a a live setting. Because it would be just as unmemorable in the morning, as her gig was.
This Lilly Oakes article was written by Tal Imagor, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson
Want the latest music news, opinions and reviews?Subscribe to the GIGsoup newsletter today
Explore the latest music from the comfort of your own inbox