This was the inaugural show of a new series of music events hosted at this fantastic venue in the centre of Oxford by legendary promoter Geoff Smith, formerly of Abingdon’s ancient Unicorn Theatre, and he was over the moon to have secured Teddy Thompson to play, with support from Lucy Kitt.
Holywell Music Room is the oldest purpose built concert hall in Europe, built in 1748, and what a stunning venue. With perfect symmetry inside and out, the auditorium features raked bench seating in a horseshoe shape around a stage dominated by an impressive organ, dramatically uplit for the occasion. Functioning and playable, along with a harpsichord and grand piano. But this evening’s entertainment was provided by two singer songwriters, which, as a number of audience members commented, made a lovely change from the usual classical music recitals that take place here. The room’s fantastic natural acoustic was boosted with care and sympathy by soundman Robin, who has come across from the Unicorn to join Geoff in this venture.
Geoff was absolutely thrilled to have managed to secure Teddy for this intimate performance before he headed up to Glasgow to play Celtic Connections and a couple of other high profile shows in England. Opening the show with Delilah, he set the tone for the show with a strong and focussed performance throughout, an Elvis like curl of the lip and toss of the head providing emphasis to his delivery of the songs. With his sixth studio album underway he drew on his extensive back catalogue of self penned songs along with a few covers, stylistically weaving across country, pop and rock, the influence of 50s rock and roll during his formative years most evident in At A Light (You’re Gonna Miss Me). There’s a darkness to a lot of his lyrics, self criticism and doubt, offset with pretty melodies and fingerstyle guitaring. Standouts were Down Low, a confession to past lovers, and Turning the Gun on Myself, a wry complaint about the noise pollution in New York set to a gentle, lullabye-esque waltz.
Between songs he was relaxed and chatty, brushing off a couple of false starts with casual ease. The audience didn’t mind at all though, he was treated to good humoured appreciation and rapturous applause throughout. There was a sense that we had all witnessed something rare and special this evening.
Support this evening was from Essex based singer songwriter Lucy Kitt. Country style guitaring and a lovely hint of a twang to her voice, she had a lovely sweet tone and reminded me a little of Karen Carpenter. Her love of 70s music was evident in her arrangements, up tempo, bright and cheerful, the yearning optimism of Eagle being a standout, along with album title track Stand By.
Holywell Music and Folk has an exciting programme of rising and established artists lined up for this year and I look forward to joining them for more shows in the Spring.
Words and photos: Jo Elkington
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