Liz Green, The Hope, Brighton
2 April 2012
Liz Green has come a long way since I first saw her at On Margate Sounds in 2010. Excellent reviews for her debut album O Devotion; a fine Secret Sessions appearance; and a single of the week and now gig of the week in The Guardian's Guide. Happily, the whimsy, charm and originality remain intact, but there is a new drive and assurance to her stage manner and performance.
As a declaration of intent, her opening takes some beating: standing in the middle of the audience and breaking into Son House's 'Grinnin' In Your Face' unmiked and unaccompanied, doing her own thing with confidence and grace while slow-on-the-uptake punters were shushed by their neighbours. She then moved on to Pulp's 'Help The Aged' before a succession of her own distinctive songs.
Her reference to Jarvis Cocker and Son House being her main influences got a laugh, but there is something in it: she's a blues singer, but a very European one – marrying Jarvis's clear-eyed and mordant observation to a clipped and unostentatious vocal style. There's also something of the chanson tradition in the mix, as her song 'French Singer' suggests. (She even managed to introduce it in French for the benefit of a couple of fans from across the Channel.
Overall, it's a jazz take on the blues, helped by skilled and subtle accompaniment from Gus Fairbairn on tenor sax, Sam Buckley on double bass and Phil Howley on drums, deploying brushes very effectively throughout.
Liz plays guitar most of the time: straightforward and unonstentatious fingerpicking which fits in fine with the overall sound. She takes her place behind a Roland keyboard for a couple of numbers, adopting a similar approach, but deadpanning beforehand "I've learnt the piano. And I'm fucking excellent." But the musical contribution that wins the most applause is her parping 'mouth trumpet' solo in 'Bad Medicine' to fill in for a missing band member.
Plenty of variety, then. We get introduced to Starling Joe, as she dons a bird facemask along the way. She ends as she began, singing alone and off-mike in front of the stage for a final encore.
Great stuff: now, onward and upward.