REVIEW: London audience intoxicated by Wellington’s soulful Louis Baker

Louis1Photo by Karl Burrows.

It’s a rare talent to command the undivided attention of a packed London venue, but that is exactly what Wellingtonian Louis Baker achieved upon his return to London last week with a sold-out gig at St Pancras Old Church.

Louis provided an aural experience of sensory delights in a venue that reverberated with the sincerity and generosity of the performer himself. Opening with his well-known song Birds seemed a highly appropriate choice, as the set quickly took flight into the heavens themselves.

Two songs in, Louis remarked, “Playing in a place like this… I’m just warming into it… it’s such an experience; so good to be here – I’m just coming to terms with it”.

The intimate, candle-lit setting could not be better suited to a performer who is clearly motivated by the desire to share something of great value with his audience. The music serves as a vehicle for the values that Louis upholds himself and was proactive in speaking about: “I truly believe in us moving forward together as one people – that’s what this song Movin’ is about”… Just Want to Thank You is about intuition and trusting yourself… and his song Love, written when he was only 17, shares his belief in non-violence. Back On My Feet tells the story of how Louis’ journey with music has helped him get back on his feet – a journey that he is now sharing with his growing number of fans throughout the world.

Louis’ set overall provided a relaxed vibe that showcased the beauty and power of solo performance as well as allowing his soulful vocals to shine. Although alone on stage, Louis is not content with simply entertaining his audience, rather, he craves audience participation – vocals, foot-tapping, clapping – and the crowd is always happy to accept his invitation. Attending one of his gigs, you really get a sense in sharing in the music and creating something together.  He has a casual vibe and his interaction with his audience always allows everyone to feel at ease. His cover of Purple Rain was eagerly embraced, and he completely elevated the energy in the room finishing with his own Get Back. Clearly won over, the crowd roared for an encore, to which they were enthusiastically given a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On.

Every time Louis Baker returns to London, his fan-base seems to have at least doubled in size. It’s hardly surprising, considering his immense talent and generosity as a performer – once you’ve been to one gig, you’ll be keen to go to them all. Definitely one to keep watching – be sure not to miss him next time he’s in town.

Review/article by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission. Originally written for NZNewsUK.

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REVIEW: Hollie Smith – intimate London gig

Hollie lead FEATURE Photo credit: Stewart Marsden of SunPrints. Used with permission.

Kiwi soulstress Hollie Smith has performed an intimate gig for the NZ Society UK at London’s iconic Black Lion in Hammersmith.

The event sold out in two days, proving that the singer-songwriter is not as unknown as a solo artist to long-term expats as some might have thought. It’s testament to Hollie’s immense talent, as well as the significant career she has carved for herself in New Zealand – with many remembering her as a former singer with Trinity Roots. But Hollie has made a name for herself in her own right – her debut album “Long Player” hit number one in the New Zealand charts in 2007. She’s been a regular presence in the charts ever since.

Accompanied only by her bassist Marika Hodgson, Hollie performed roughly an hour-long set to 80 people. It was a good mix of some of her better-known tracks, a couple of covers, as well as some new material. “Walk Away” – a track she worked on with Anika Moa and Boh Runga – eased the crowd into what was to come. She performed a touching Billie Holiday rendition that had been a favourite growing up and that she had performed with her jazz band at high school. It was one of the first songs her music teacher had given to her, and it pulled on the audience’s heart strings when Hollie relayed the story of how he had recently shown up at one of her gigs and it had made her cry.

Hollie built a strong and intimate rapport with the crowd, cracking jokes throughout, which often provoked a roar of laughter from her audience. She oozed with a real sense of “Kiwi-ness” which endeared her easily to anyone looking for a taste of home.

Hollie finished up with her trademark and captivating performance of Don McGlashan’s “Bathe In the River”. She had remarked on how she was planning to return home and finally finish a new album. One of the fresh new tracks performed was (and I do apologise if I misheard her name any of them) “In Love Again”, which was one of the first songs she wrote for the new album. If the new material performed last night is anything to go by, her next album is shaping up to be a great one.

Spacific Music presented Hollie Smith at the Black Lion, and she is performing two more shows: in London tomorrow, Friday 11 July – and in Edinburgh on Tuesday 22 July. Tickets are available from Ticketweb.

“Expectations”: brave triumph of NZ playwright’s debut play

I was recently invited by Shaky Isles to review a new play: Expectations, by Emma Deakin. The review has been published on NZ News UK and Theatreview – you can also read it below.

It’s on at London’s Pleasance Theatre until 24 November (click on the link for more details) – do go and see it if you get the chance.

Photo by Jenifer ToksvigImage

Reviewed by Charlotte Everett, 7 November 2013

Expectations is a brave, beautiful and artistically daring production that breathes life into discussion around miscarriage.

Being a “rainbow baby” myself (having been conceived once my parents had seemingly given up after a series of miscarriages), I have to admit I was apprehensive about seeing this production. My mother hadn’t spoken about her miscarriages – and seeing the pain it clearly brought to her eyes, I dared not ask.

For New Zealander Emma Deakin of London-based theatre company Shaky Isles, her own experience in this area prompted her to write her first play – Expectations. Given that 1 in every 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, it’s astonishing that there are not more plays, films, books and poetry dealing with this painful and devastating “fact of life” for so many people.

Deakin has courageously responded to this lack of support around miscarriage, and Expectations boldly brings the discussion out in the open.

Although the play is intense – enhanced by the use of intimate studio space, and a striking set dressed in red, black and white – it is far from depressing. Moments of heartache are balanced with a high dose of humour. The play is set within a game show – “Let’s play Expectations! Where you can play to win the BIG PRIZE!” – the relevant irony being of course that it’s possible for both teams to win the “big prize”, as well as for neither team to win the big prize.

The “games” take us on the journey of two couples: Richard and Amanda (outstanding performances from Kane Bixley and Deakin herself), and Paul and Scarlett (equally well-played by David Eaton and Natalie Ann Jamieson). Richard and Amanda are a typical, seemingly happy and well-rounded married couple who yearn for a family, but are blighted by disappointment from previously miscarrying, as well as the fear of miscarrying again – not to mention additional pressure from those around them. Paul and Scarlett on the other hand tell the story of a young woman carrying through with an unplanned pregnancy where the father is out of the picture – Paul, her housemate, providing her with much-needed love and support, from an entirely unromantic motivation. The contrast between the different lives of these two couples – teams on the game show – highlights the universality of the suffering miscarriage can bring, and the impact miscarriage can have not only on the mother carrying the child, but also on those close to her who have been supporting her through the pregnancy.

The play deals with the expectations not only of the couples who are expecting, but also with the additional pressure of others expectations: soon-to-be grandparents, friends and colleagues, nursing staff and midwives – and even fate itself, portrayed through the presence of children of the ancient gods as the game show hosts. Deakin’s words – “We’re against the odds, you know. It’s actually really hard to be born” – summarise the harsh reality that miscarriage in many respects is down to chance. The play seeks to offer hope to anyone affected by miscarriage; to inspire courage through loss and to demonstrate that life not only goes on after miscarriage, but that it can be – and is – a truly perfect and wondrous thing.

Expectations is a polished work infused with energy. This can be attributed to the talented and committed cast of seven, and the dedicated direction of Stella Duffy – who has been working closely with Deakin and Shaky Isles for a number of years – and the depth of their creative relationship shows. The resulting production – which will no doubt continue to evolve as the season continues – is the reflection of a hard-working and united cast, as well as a director who has clearly nurtured and cared for the work as a whole in a way that shines brightly throughout.

This is a brave, collaborative work that seeks to illuminate the darkness in many lives, and succeeds in doing so. In addition to raising awareness about the heartache of miscarriage, it is a truly stunning production, not to be missed.