Gig Review: Ghostpoet and Soap & Skin
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
6th October 2012
This double bill concert featured two rising European musicians as part of the Ether Festival, taking place at the Southbank Centre this October. Soap & Skin, real name Anja Plaschg is an Austrian musician and producer gathering recognition for her dark, enigmatic, piano driven tracks and Ghostpoet, 2011 Mercury Prize nominee whose brightly articulate spoken word and jazz inspired, electronic beats offered a compelling program of shadowy, atmospheric musicianship for the evening.
Opening the event, Soap & Skin‘s set comprised of piano, small orchestral accompaniment and booming percussive and electronically processed sounds. Overwhelming at times and frequently quite sinister, Soap & Skin‘s performance was carried out with outstanding intensity, almost to the stage of emotional and affective discomfort both for the audience and for Plaschg herself. The 20th century, classical style piano enhanced Plaschg‘s low, hollow, nasal toned voice, creating a deeply haunting sound, with previous comparisons to Bjork appearing not unfounded. Throughout the performance Soap & Skin‘s presence was mysterious and distant, her head low, hair in face as she sat piano side with nothing but an occasionally dim spotlight or single, highly charged strobe flashing behind. Soap & Skin‘s performance commanded attention of the audience, where literal darkness facilitated the sounds of minor and sometimes modal tonalities, conveying tales of broken relationships, religious encounters and exorcisms. While music as sinister and as unsettling as this may not sit easily upon the ears or spirit’s of audiences, Soap & Skin‘s music channels a darkness that is seldom considered or explored during concert performances and for this reason, it would seem that a deep impression could be made upon those who are willing to let her shadows engulf them.
Closing the evening, artist Ghostpoet shared with the Royal Festival hall a truly magical performance. Welcoming the audience, Ghostpoet (real name Obaro Ejimiwe), expressed his gratitude, which was returned by the eager audience tenfold. With one shout of ‘Come on boi!!’ from an eager London fan, Ejimiwe opened to all the seated attendees the invitation to stand and dance, provoking all those at the back of the Festival Hall to run to the front, fill the aisles, to dance, to be close and to share in the music together. An incredible experience unlike what I imagine the Festival Hall has often seen before. Health and safety may have been having a hissy fit, but the audience was truly electrifying as they danced to Ghostpoet’s jazz infused electronic beats. One minor default was that as an artist who has had so much attention put on his lyrical capabilities, whether it may have been relating to sound issues or perhaps the way in which the microphone was being held, the clarity of Ghostpoet‘s lyrics were somewhat lost. Having listened to his first album several times my mind filled in these narrative gaps as best it could, but considering this as the worst and rather minor downfall of the set, it did not take away from the warmth of the performance, the affective relationship between performer, accompanying musicians and audience was rather special. To have brought out such a response in the audience, as an artist unaccustomed to playing venues such as this, it can only suggest great things for Ghostpoet‘s future releases, with a second album expected in 2013. To have an impact as powerful and as joyful upon such an audience can only suggest that his work to follow and performances to come will be even more exciting. A very special evening.
Look out for other performances as part of the Ether Festival at the Southbank Centre, including a Resident Adviser curated evening with performances by Mount Kimbie, Ramie, Bass Cleff, Ekoclef and Airhead, taking place on Saturday the 13th of October. And keep your eyes peeled for future Ghostpoet gigs and releases.
Review by Jayne Stynes