Lucy Rose – Rio Cinema, London, UK (13th July 2017)

The ‘Worldwide Cinema Tour’ by singer-songwriter Lucy Rose dispels with the need for a support act by showing a film instead. Called ‘Something’s Changing’ — the same as her new album — it’s a moving short about the artist’s trip to Latin America, where she forged life-affirming personal relationships with fans who had been her twitter contacts for years, and yearned to see her. The deal was that she’d meet them if they gave her somewhere to stay in their home and organised a gig in their local town.

Incredibly, people turned up in droves at these concerts by this English rose, far from home but among new friends. They knew the words and sang along; they took her into their hearts. Lucy Rose calls it a “hugely positive experience” that left her believing in herself and in her music again.

She introduces the film and talks a lot during her set. She is clearly deeply emotionally invested in the movie and the music she’s released post-journey. After a couple of tonight’s songs she appears to wipe a tear from under each eye. Stand-out album track ‘Floral Dresses’, played solo as the first song of the encore at the Rio show, contains the line “I’m growing older each passing day”. It’s so true; Lucy Rose has a new-found maturity in her songwriting and in the way she performs. 

The same band plays live as on the album, their restrained approach meaning that they never overwhelm the tracks with too much bluster, but build or decay simply and efficiently in the songwriter’s often complex arrangements. They play every song on the new album apart from the short ‘Intro’, along with a handful from her 2012 debut ‘Like I Used To’ and a couple from 2015’s top-10 ‘Work It Out’. 

Texture and dynamic changes are Lucy Rose’s compositional hallmarks. Opener ‘Love Song’ changes pace suddenly towards the end, the drummer clapping and keyboards coming in. ‘Second Chance’ breaks into a “groovy chorus” with husband Will on brief tambourine duty until he reverts to his usual guitar-changing roadie role. A mature realisation that less is more is apparent on ‘Soak It Up’, with its sparse second guitar, syncopated time signature, and chords that hint at Pink Floyd ’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’.

Sonorous or wailing fiddle accompanies guitar or piano on new tracks ‘Is This Called Home’, in which the guitar interplay stands out; ‘No Good At All’, which reflects a low (“not super unhappy”) ebb before the Latin American voyage as she sings “What’s left of me? A flower of fallen seed”; and ‘Moiria’ (dedicated to “people I met on the journey… and one of the saddest songs I’ve written”); as well as ‘My Life’ and ‘Nebraska’ from ‘Work It Out’.

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All the while, her pure voice captivates the fans. It’s soaring on ‘Is This Called Home’, silky and velvety on ‘Find Myself’, until on the high notes it trembles emotionally with vibrato, as it does on platonic love song ‘I Can’t Change It All’. She is pitch perfect, except for on a comical false start as she takes to her keyboard for ‘Nebraska’. 

She appears completely at ease on a small raised platform at centre stage, standing to play guitar or sitting at her electric piano. “What was I so nervous about?” she asks before ‘Strangest Of Ways’, with its echoes of her previous flirtations with poppy math-rock second guitar. She may be relaxed and calm, but she is not scared of vulnerability — exposing herself in order to heighten emotion.

One of her twitter votes had been won by those preferring to stand rather than sit at her shows, but she’s no fan of standing gigs, she reveals. Die-hard admirers wait patiently in their seats for chances to join in, mouthing the words to the 2011 single ‘Middle of the Bed’ and obeying the lyric “everybody scream out loud” in ‘Bikes’. 

The evening ends with another track from the early days, ‘Shiver’. The words “when we were alone” seem to echo softly and hauntingly around the art deco spaces of the Rio before a steel guitar sound comes in and Lucy Rose sings, “And if we turn back time, would we learn…” The truth is, she has learned and matured, without turning back time.

Love Song
My Life
Is This Called Home
Strangest Of Ways
Middle of the Bed
No Good At All
Soak It Up
Second Chance
Find Myself
I Can’t Change It All
Floral Dresses

Photos by Ian Bourne