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Live Review: Brooke Fraser – Thursday 31st March 2011 – Union Chapel, London, UK

5 min read

Kiwi folk starlet Brooke Fraser has been a shining beam of musical delight for the best part of a decade in her native New Zealand, gradually building a strong reputation as one of the most talented and acclaimed musicians to make waves outside of the Pacific over the past 10 years.

With her debut album, What To Do With Daylight, gracing the airwaves back in 2003 and spawning five consecutive top five singles as well as her successful sophomore follow up, Albertine causing a buzz throughout the states in 2006, Fraser returns with album number three, Flags.

Playing the role of debut for the singers unleashing on the UK Market, Fraser has taken to the road to promote the release and to introduce herself to the British music scene. As part of that promotion the songstress took to the intimate stage of north London’s Union Chapel to showcase the introductory record and, being a fellow kiwi and fan of Brooke Fraser, I threw my hands to the air when the opportunity arose to witness the dawning of a future international star.

With the venue fitted with tea lights that lit the room up modestly, glowing red pillars and the delicate chapel feel present in full force, Fraser emerged to her delighted audience at just past 9pm.

Beginning the set with a very acoustic opener, Fraser leapt into The Thief with some emotive and extremely heartfelt vocals gelled into a guitar picked melody as the singer stood solitary on the stage.

As soon as the introductory number came to an end her fellow band members, a guitarist from Sydney, Australia and drummer from California, weer kindly welcomed by Fraser and the crowd as the singer declared her love for the UK and her fortune of being able to play in such an immaculate and fitting venue as Union Chapel.

Orphans and Kingdoms then took over and provided a pounding and momentous marching band drum and offered us a sturdy and memorable early addition to the nights set.

The singer was in top form throughout the set not only due to her effortless musicianship behind a mic, guitar and piano and her persuasive lyrical storytelling but also due to her humorous and plentiful anecdotes including one of a lucky London shopping trip which involved the repeated trying on of what would turn out to be a pair of very inexpensive leather pants. Of course this was not to be mistaken for the underwear variety of pants as the singer was quick to point out, but of the trouser variety.

The singer seemed to know her way around not only the stage but also her audience and the best way to get a reaction and ultimately a laugh.

Jumping back into her set Betty took over with a charming guitar picked melody and vibrant summer felt rhythm.

Deciphering Me, one of the singers early Albertine tracks, got a big applause from the the audience with the clear abundance of long time Fraser followers and fans showing face in the crowd. As soon as the first bars of the track began to play the venue erupted in applause leaving Fraser almost blushing in astonishment.

As soon as the track finished the singer moved swiftly over to her piano to continue her set. Before doing so however she made a shout out to a Brazilian fan in the higher level of the crowd who had requested Fraser to say ‘I love you’ to her boyfriend. A touching and sentimental vibe was set before C.S Lewis Song took over and Fraser continued to lap up the adulation from the 300 strong attendees.

Who Are We Fooling, the singers first duet and a track that features on her latest release, was sung as sweetly as a solo number as with fellow musician Aqualung aka Matt Hales. The inclusion of the number was special not only for the beauty of the track but also for the songs first appearance at a live performance.

Flags, the title track from Fraser’s upcoming release, was a sombre and melancholic addition which showed off Fraser’s immensely moving and precise vocals while Albertine proved to be a driving force within the set with its thumping drums that pulsated throughout the small enclosure of the chapel.

Crows and Locusts, one of the highlights on the upcoming UK debut, proved to be just as moving live as an album number and took over as the atmospheric epicentre of the night. Fraser’s fellow musicians also got a nod with sections within the number allowing the band members to show off their talents.

With an almost Tori Amos styled opening Violet Hill took over from here. The number included some theatrical drum rolls over the dynamic mixing of blues, funk and rock into a kaleidoscope of energetic splendor.

As the set was slowly drawing to a close Fraser announced to the crowd that the next song would be her last causing the crowd to make a united gasp that echoed throughout the venue. It was very eerie. Of course the next track wouldn’t be her last as she backed up her comment by mentioning that she had to say that though everyone knows that an encore would also be served.

The albums lead single, Something in the Water then took over and was the clear stand out of the night getting the crowd up on their feet dancing and singing along. Its beefy sticcato drum structure made the track a memorable and beautiful addition within the nights programme and gave just cause for the track to go down a storm ahead of the parent records release.

The night was then rounded off spectacularly with the closing numbers, Sailboats and Coachella before the singer announced her appreciation to the crowd and her plans to come into the audience soon after she left the stage to sign anything they wanted.

As a rising star in such a large sky of musicians Brooke Fraser is one to watch in the coming months as she makes her mark on the international map with her sublime and pop scented set of folk influenced charm. As far as breakthrough’s go, Brooke Fraser have every ounce of determination and x-factor to make it as a solo force of talent and one that I would recommend anyone to witness if given the opportunity.

Set List:

The Thief
Orphans and Kingdoms
Deciphering Me
C.S Lewis Song
Who Are We Fooling?
Crows and Locusts
Violet Hill
Something In The Water