Gig review: Lucy Rose @ The Portland Arms, Cambridge

I’m not sure if it’s the heat getting to me in the stifling hot Portland Arms, but I’m sure Lucy Rose has just pointed everyone to the merchandise table where you can buy “tea, jam, or some t-shirts my Mum & Dad got me for Christmas”. With a sales list more comparable to a bric-a-brac stall at a school fete, you could be forgiven for forgetting that Lucy Rose is one of the most hotly tipped acts of 2012 and that she had in fact, just completely wowed the sold out audience in attendance.

First up was support act Nathan Holme, who with his pastel blue striped shirt and sweeping blonde locks could easily have just finished a shift at Scudamore’s Punts. An intriguing set followed. Over the next 30 minutes we were treated to a quite extraordinary display of what can only be described as experimental folk-electronica – which I would imagine is a brand new genre – but then I’m not sure what else to call it. Making full use of guitar and vocal loops, the sound created by one man alone as he built songs up step by step was more than impressive. He clearly has a penchant for a catchy melody, and while the set consisted mostly of jaggedly absorbing numbers, there were some softer, more emotive pieces in there as well – with ‘Good luck & Good bye’ being the stand out song for me. Holme is certainly trying an interesting concept, and while I’ve seen this kind of stuff fall flat on it’s face before, our young punter seems to have got it spot on.

The sweltering back bar was heaving now and as excitable chatter filled the humid air; not many noticed the diminutive figure quietly climbing onto the stage, guitar in hand. It was her voice that broke it. Silencing the crowd in an instant, it cuts right through the racket and from that moment on, we were hooked. Meekly perched on an equipment box, two crates, a doormat and then a stool; Lucy Rose gazes out over the crowd’s heads from underneath a heavy blonde fringe. She quickly has those same heads bobbing by opening with laid back crowd favourite ‘Middle of the Bed’, before moving straight into ‘Watch Over’ with it’s jaunty beat and bursts of noise. Quieter, more soothing tracks then arrive in the form of ‘Place’, ‘Night Bus’ and ‘Scar’ – all pitch perfect and well suited to her heartbreaking delivery. Performing as a five piece line up on this tour doesn’t take away the intimacy of these softer numbers at all – the excellent band becoming involved to the extent each song dictates, and certainly on the louder numbers they add a great depth to the music. With Lucy now voicing concerns over her “sweat ‘tash” and the ink starting to run on my notebook page, it’s probably not best advised to raise the temperature further by playing a song she labels as “insane”, but as the soulful baseline of ‘Lines’ kicks in the crowd are moving once again. There’s a distinctly likeable shyness to Lucy Rosy as she talks to the audience between songs. Politely requesting for them to “scream and shout” when called for in ‘Bikes’; they enthusiastically oblige with full force – the growing volume of each delivery only being matched by the growing smile on her face. In a pre-gig interview with Slate the Disco she’d named the Portland Arms as her favourite stop on her last tour, and the roar of approval from the crowd reached a new level as this was reiterated to the room. The main set closes with frantic drums and elements of Fleetwood Mac in the excellent ‘Red Face’, before exiting the stage and then quickly returning as they succumbed to the baying crowd’s demand for an encore.

Having announced September as the release date of her debut album and with a jam packed summer ahead of her, the remainder of 2012 promises to be massive for Lucy Rose. As she does her best to keep up with the red faced masses clamoring for tea and t-shirts at the merchandise stand, I can’t help but think that soon enough Lucy Rose is a name you’ll be hearing a lot more of – and I’ll raise a mug to that.




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