As Communion’s New Faces Tour begins, Getintothis’ Amaan Khan joins a small audience at the Arts Club to check some fresh and promising talents
The new faces this time are Matt Woods, Rukhsana Merrise, The Beach and Adam French. On this night at Arts Club’s Loft, the event not only showcases the refined skills of the acts on the bill but also, unfortunately, demonstrates how a good gig is a two-way affair that requires both a proper act and an engaged audience.
Although it’s a Saturday and adjacent rooms of the club are packed with a rather young emo audience who are gathered to witness the energy of Moose Blood, there are somehow only around thirty people in the audience tonight at The Loft. While the lack of a crowd will act as a fun killer throughout the night, the artists, most of whom have million hits on at least one of their songs on Spotify, will make sure to let us know that the lack of audience is not a comment on their abilities as performers.
First to take the stage is Matt Woods, who is a soul crooner currently based in London. Tonight, he addresses the small crowd with just a guitar, his voice and his songwriting, and uses the smallness of the crowd to his advantage and delivers an intimate set. Matt likes to sing in the higher register just around the limit where his voice should break. Smoothly and effectively shifting to falsetto on multiple occasions duringher a song, he almost howls forth songs of pain and longing. He even treats the crowd with a cover of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game before bidding us adieu.
Following Matt Woods is the commanding presence of Rukhsana Merrise. Though described on her Facebook page as alternative singer/songwriter, Rukhsana and her band have a sound better described as an organic form of r&b. She packs a lot of stage presence and backed by a guitarist, bassist and drummer, connects with the thirty-ish people in the audience the same way as she would with a crowd of thousands.
Rukhsana definitely manages to raise the energy of the place with her act that she has perfected over the years. These years even include a recent tour she did supporting James Bay. Her familiarity with her sound and her signature style can be clearly seen when she performs a semi-reimagined version of The Weeknd’s Can’t Feel My Face amongst her original songs of heartbreaks and frustration.
As for The Beach, he is not just a new face but a very quickly rising new face. With more than two million Spotify hits on his song Thieves and upcoming appearance at the Reading and Leeds festival, the likability of his music need not be questioned. After making us go through a comparatively longer wait before they grace the stage, The Beach and his band provide a dose of the very usual pop with a love of bass frequencies.
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However, the main highlight of the evening for us turned out to be the final artist, Adam French. He is a man of commanding presence, charm, looks and good vibes. Even the band compliments both the vibes and aesthetic with their all-black get-up. French has a combines all the qualities that the previous artists featured: Matt Woods’s soulfulness, Rukhsana’s energy and Beach’s pop sensibilities.
The audience finally gets into gear, spurred on with energetic and catchy choruses as heard in his song Ivory. He doesn’t ignore, but addresses the shortage of audience with a good natured sarcasm that he attributes to his North West belongingness. He sensibly balances the set between energetic numbers and intimate ballads before leaving the stage with a promise of seeing the city again.
Communion’s New Faces Tour will no doubt carry on and please bigger crowds as it goes along, regardless of a quiet start. While the lack of a responsive crowd didn’t help, it doesn’t take anything away from the undoubted talent and skills of the four acts or, indeed, the likelihood of their future success.