Live Gems @ Chinawhites 5 July 2012 (Review)
I was a little unsure of what to expect of a LiveGems night in London’s Chinawhites, not being familiar with the showcase or the venue, however I was pleasantly surprised to find a small, intimate and welcoming (if highly networked) event. The main attraction of the showcase was headliner Jaz Ellington who currently shot to fame through the new BBC TV series ‘The Voice’ and was on the Music Eyz Hotlist 2012 .
Before Jaz took to the stage however, there were a number of other acts lined up for the intimate crowd. The acts were slightly too differing in style to make up a fluid musical set, as it bounced from soulful acoustic sets to upbeat retro-pop and a handful of not altogether melodious ballad covers were seemingly thrown in.
This is not to say that the acts weren’t worthy of spending an evening listening to, the selection however could have been modified to balance the vibe and atmosphere inside the venue.
Letting her big personality and confident persona overthrow the less than enthusiastic greeting she received as initially she took to the stage, Shanice Smith, a 19 year old who goes by the stage name “Shan Smile” gave an incredible opening performance. Singing two of her own songs with soft, melodic but very strong vocals with only her acoustic guitar and softly played keyboard for backup, Shan charmed the audience and demanded some well-deserved attention from the crowd.
Another noteworthy performance was made a few acts into the set by Yours Truly a 3-piece, 50’s inspired pop band who added some fun and frivolity to the evening with their selection of upbeat songs, quirky dance routines and a cover of Shirley Ellis’ “The Clapping Song”. They had me, and a vast majority of the crowd singing and bopping along with them at the “3, 6, 9, the goose drank wine, the monkey chew tobacco on the streetcar line” lyrics.
It was Duke however who stole the show with his deep, soulful voice as he beautifully sang a cover of Coldplay’s “Paradise”. Now to even begin explaining how much of a compliment this is, I must first explain to you my pet-hate of musicians singing covers. It’s almost always a Marmite situation with the resounding response normally being “HATE” however Duke totally made the song his own. This coupled with his own catchy songs such as “unstoppable you” made his set without a doubt, the most outstanding and enjoyable of the evening.
And now onto the main event of the Live Gems Showcase, Mr Jaz Ellington…
In such a small and intimate setting which should have lit him up and really shown off the power and vocal range of his voice, it only served to stifle him as his performance came across a little forced.
Jaz began his set by singing a handful of his own songs, with the opening song including a rap by one of his bandmate’s Ceasar crooning “marks out of 10, she would get a hundred thousand” and darkly the thought crossed my mind that the same maybe couldn’t be said for Jaz’s performance. At least this is what I initially thought, as by the time Jaz started singing his second song “Platform 23” I wanted to slap myself around the head for ever having had that thought.
“Platform 23” was a more relaxed and soulful number and throughout the song it was almost visible to see Jaz beginning to relax. From here on out, it really gave him the chance to interact with the crowd a little more and show off his vocal range. Audience participation was actively encouraged by Jaz at the non-lexical vocables in the song (what’s otherwise known as the “ooh ooh ooh’s” to you and me) and his personality began to shine through.
There was a touching moment midway through the song when Jaz credited all of his band and backing singers by announcing “They’re not just my backing band. They’re artists” before encouraging each of them to take centre stage and show off their musical talents by performing a few lines each from the song.
As the short set ended, the crowd demanded an encore to which he accepted, masterfully ignoring the dark glares and protests from the club’s management as the show was running over schedule. Once asked what they wanted to hear an overwhelming chorus of the song “Ordinary People”, which gained him his rightful place as the last member of Will.I.Am’s team in “The Voice”, could be heard from the crowd.
Jaz did not disappoint and powerfully belted out the lyrics to the song John Legend made famous in 2005 while the crowd happily sang along with him. Talk about going out with a bang, Jaz managed spectacularly turn his set around from its wobbly start within a matter of songs, to leave me with an overall glowing impression of the man and his extraordinary voice.
Review by Nadine Foy