Acoustic Sessions at Stanley Halls is a relatively new name to the capital's live venues but audiences are seeing that this lovely venue has its eyes set on becoming a serious addition, with a line-up of top quality names from the acoustic world, and the venues team are set on delivering high quality production values to match.
One of the venue's first concerts this year was a return to Stanley Halls for the irrepressible pairing of Amy Wadge and Luke Jackson in a double header concert which was the climax of a busy 15 date tour for the pair. There is clearly have a deep rapport and friendship off stage and that both informs and enhances their performance, which was divided into two solo sets with a duet section in both sets where their voices melded into one effortlessly and left many in the audience asking for a duet album.
Amy Wadge is an unaffected performer, radiating good humour and energy with such vigour as to almost overshadow the Stanley Halls' excellent stage lighting. She sings from the heart and her guitar playing is deceptively sparse but driven by an infectious deep-seated groove. After her first solo songs, Luke Jackson comes on stage for the first of the evening's duets, 'Thinking Out Loud', her 2016 Grammy-award winner, co-written with Ed Sheeran. Wadge has clearly done very well from the collaboration with Sheeran, as demonstrated by the pair of Lowden guitars on stage and the condo she has reported that she had just bought in Nashville, but despite this stellar success she wears it lightly with unaffected charm and not a little self-deprecation, noting that when her young daughter saw her play live for the first time recently, any rock star pretensions were defused by a demand for the toilet.
One of the strengths of Amy's songs is that they are set in her life story and personal experience, and also the tribulations that impact all our lives. The song 'Bump' came from her pregnancy, the beautiful 'One Last Dance' inspired by the 75 year marriage of her grandparents while another new song dedicated to her children noted the conflicting demands of following your star and dealing with the demands of family. Her subjects and heart-on-her sleeve delivery connects with the audience in a way that few performers can do so with such natural ease and authenticity.
Luke Jackson is still a young man, but in terms of performance he is a veteran and his voice and performance is as mature as anyone twice his age. Last year he attended the Folk Alliance event in Kansas City and the Americana influence in his music is distinct and enriching. Moving from acapella singing to blues, his rich, powerful voice and intricate guitar work is little short of remarkable. His early songs were often observational in character; however as his song writing has matured he has become adept at telling more personal stories and his relationship with Amy can only have helped. Moving on to a duet section, the pair performed Jackson's 'Finding Home', a song written in green rooms on tour and a song which particularly demonstrates how well their voices combine. A highlight later in the solo part of the set is a stunning cover of Simon & Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' â?" a hard song to cover well but here done with conviction and polish. The pair left the audience with an encore performance of Prince's 'Purple Rain', driven with all the power of the original, but from just a guitar and a piano.
Stunning does not even begin to adequately describe this pair of superb artists; as solo artists they are both at the top of their game but together they really do take things to another level. Wadge tours much less these days but says that she loves her annual tour with Jackson and they both loved Stanley Halls so expect to see a second return visit!
Website and tickets: www.stanleyhalls.org.uk
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