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Rosalie Cunningham - 02 & 03/12/20

New Cross Inn - London

My reviews have always contained some form of bias as it would be silly of me to go unpaid to gigs of bands I didn’t like or had never heard of. However today’s review contains an extra layer of bias on top of the usual. For a man who lives for travelling and gigs, and having not been able to do either for a fair amount of time, the fact I was even going to see live music again was already filling me with joy before I even arrived in the capitol let alone the venue. I would have been excited for just about anyone too but the added advantage of this gig was Rosalie produced one of my favourite albums of last year and fittingly as she played my last gig before lockdown would be the first one after (well sort of after but still during possibly).

Night 1

The first highlight of the night was before I even got to the venue. Having been told my hotel booking had been cancelled four days prior because I didn’t have a signed letter from work stating I was staying for work purposes I had managed to arrange a hostel with the advantage of a private room but the disadvantage of a shared bathroom. A man of my sophistication and class obviously prefers having a piss at 2am without having to walk down a communal corridor so to my delight my disadvantage disappeared when I opened what I thought must be a cupboard only to find it had a toilet and shower in it. It was a very (en)suite surprise (god that was bad and a whole non-gig related paragraph to get it in too).

Moving to the gig and having entered alone (no surprise James was going to be a little late but a little more so Andrew) I was guided to my seat and reminded that I was only allowed to leave to go to the toilet and that drinks would be provided to the table. This was wonderful. I was near the front, no-one was going to bash into me and no two hour queue for the bar with my back to the band. All the work was going to be done for me! Why would anyone see this as a problem?

Having ordered a drink I watched the first support, a man with an acoustic guitar, sounding just like 99% of men with acoustic guitars do. It was all perfectly fine but I can’t remember any of it because he sounded like a man with an acoustic guitar. Actually that’s not true, I remember him announcing one song was an Alter Bridge cover and that sounded very much like a man with an acoustic guitar playing a song on an acoustic guitar. Again it was fine and he played well but I was at this point still more excited about the fact I have an ensuite in the hostel and didn’t have to queue for the bar…

A few songs into the second support and Andrew turned up. At a fairly normal volume he said hello, I replied and we shared a few pleasantries as we hadn’t seen each other for a while.

Could you PLEASE keep it down, we are trying to listen to the music.

I think we’d only been talking about thirty seconds and I appreciate that people talking can be annoying but you know these things happen in a pub/gig and I tend to let them go (until I moan about them on this site). It’s the same way that it’s annoying that people barge past you to get to the front but along with many other things (one of which I will happily get on to later) you just get on with it. The guy in front who had told us off turned back around and we whispered a few more pleasantries before enjoying the rest of the band’s set.

The band was a three piece and I remember the last couple of songs being their most interesting. Some good vocal harmonies and I think the last one picked the beat up a little. It’s this level of detail in my writing that I am sure gives me the thousands of followers I don’t have. Anyway now that the support bands and the ensuite are out the way, let’s get onto the actual reason you’re probably here… Rosalie Cunningham!

The set began with Rocking Horse and its great dramatic riff that starts it all off. It abated any fears the semi-acoustic performance (Rosco on electric guitar and a new member on keyboards and drums simultaneously backing an acoustic Rosalie) would subdue the drama. If anything on acoustic that riff became even more theatrical.

After the debut song we were told there’d be a lot of new material and whilst I enjoyed them on night one, it was on night two where they really stood out as my ears became a little more familiar with them and so I will come back to them a little later in this review.

Fuck Love was the next known song and whilst it translated well into an acoustic setting it was Dethroning of the Party Queen that was the true highlight of the rocky numbers from that album. Like Rocking Horse the acoustic feel only enhanced the theatrical vibes of the song and I might have even preferred this version to the electric.

The only other track played from this album was the sublime Butterflies and aside from an online showing the first time I had heard it live. It’s such a beautiful song, with a great guitar hook and some fantastic vocal melodies that I drifted off into my happy place (that isn’t Turf Moor (I’ve been so bored during lockdown I’ve actually watched I’m a Celeb and now used it for a crap reference)). The only downside to Butterflies was it not leading onto my favourite song A Yarn from the Wheel as it does on the album but then a 14 minute sprawling masterpiece is probably a tad tricky done acoustically.

The rest of the Purson set compromised of Chocolate Money, the most Beatlesy sounding Purson song and two more from the The Circle And The Blue Door (that reminded me I really should listen to that album more as I tend to not get past DMT and the Rosalie debut). Both Tempest and the Tide and Tragic Catastrophe sounded great and whilst it was a shame that nothing popped up from Desire’s Magic Theatre, at short notice and with a new member having to learn a whole set, I wasn’t going to get upset by little details like that unlike…

The guy in front who again was not happy, this time with the table next to us apparently talking through one of the Purson songs (I couldn’t hear them)…

You’re clapping now but you were talking through the entire fucking song, can’t you just shut the fuck up, we’re trying to listen to the song!

Again I can appreciate people find talking at gigs annoying, I do too but you know what else I find annoying; people who try to talk to the band in-between songs. The ‘turn around shut-up’ guy and his mate wouldn’t stop and between every song would either reply to whatever Rosalie had said with something pointless or state that the new drummer was amazing as he simultaneously was also the keyboardist… okay we get it! Considering they thought they were part of the show I’m surprised they hadn’t turned up a couple of hours before the gig started demanding a mic and a sound-check.

The only plus point of this whole situation was it reminded me of being at any other gig where there are always annoying people who only consider their own enjoyment and I felt I was back home. Actually there were two plus points…

When the set ended the guy on the end of the ‘we can talk to the band but you can’t talk at all’ table was keen to leave and started to stand. He only got so far up and then his legs realised he was hammered, gravity introduced herself and a second later so did the floor. Oh dear! Extremely generously the couple who a few songs ago had been told to SHUT THE FUCK UP kindly got up and went to help the man. I not so kindly simply resisted the temptation to shout:

Couldn’t you just try and keep the noise down a little!

You might think with all this moaning I was slightly distracted from the set itself but that couldn’t be further from the mark. I immensely enjoyed seeing Rosalie and Rosco back on stage and hearing those familiar dramatic and enticing riffs again.

With Rosalie playing the parts on the acoustic guitar as easily as she does on the electric (it’s really hard to do in my experience) Rosco complimented her fantastically as he always does with the effects and note choices on his electric. The two combined both gave us a true feel for the songs we already knew but also let them breathe in a new arena that I would happily see again.

It is worth also giving a huge amount of credit to the drummer (who as you may have worked out by now simultaneously played the keyboards!), as learning any set in a short amount of time isn’t easy but especially if they are the type of songs Rosalie writes (i.e. a little more complicated than a Coldplay song). Again my huge amount of non-research has led me to no conclusions as to whether he will play with them again but here he did a fantastic job.

Night one was a joyous return to live music both simply because I was seeing live music again but also because although there was not a full band and therefore not all the songs could be replicated it showcased that Rosalie is able to pen well-written songs and happily perform them in new settings. My two mates left happy and I looked forward to night two.

Night Two

Natalie turned up so early (i.e. when we agreed to meet) that we could even get some dinner first. This was exciting enough but not as exciting as being led to the best seats in the venue… right at the back and right by the door. When we were led to them we of course didn’t realise this to be the case, what about all those not yet filled tables a lot closer for instance, but by the end of the show we wouldn’t have changed them for the world.

As per night one the first advantage of the Corona gig was having a lovely bottle of red delivered to the table with two glasses as opposed to queueing for an hour to be handed vinegar in plastic cups. I’m going to find it difficult returning fully to normal.

Again the set-list began with Rocking Horse and then entered the first of the new songs. Thankfully as someone has entered the song-titles on Setlistfm I can actually name them (I pushed myself in the research department on this one) and we started with the one/two of God is a Verb and Donovan Ellington.

God is a Verb reminded me a little of Butterflies in that as Butterflies sets up Yarn on the debut this track was short and Rosalie immediately then jumped into Donovan Ellington that started off with a folky vibe.

We later got Fossil Song, Liner Notes, Eternitea Time (great title) and Suck Push Bang Blow all of which contained the usual Rosalie twists and turns and kept the songs exciting. Being new it’s hard to give you much detail but I remember an ‘over the white cliffs of Dover’ line and the last of the new songs beginning very classic rock before veering off into other territories. I think it was this last track that had the most immediate impact but by night two I was happily tapping my foot to all of them.

The good news was the tracks all felt fully formed and so hopefully with Rosalie announcing you could pre-order the single; the full album is not a million miles away from landing on our laps either.

Whilst the crowd on night one were into the performance on night two they seemed to step up a level and there was a lot more enthusiasm and cheering throughout and this seemed to influence the performance. I enjoyed night one but Rosalie and friends seemed more relaxed and punchy on night two.

Talking of the crowd and I can now reveal why it turned out we had the best seats in the house. The guy on the table in front of us was really enjoying the show, to the point where I was watching him almost as much as I was the band.

He started off with a simple bit of air bass that developed into air drums and also air guitar. The air guitar was my favourite as whilst he used one hand to form the chords and strummed with the other, if it got to a really exciting part the chord hand would also strum. Then as if signing a signature for a mansion or a Ferrari, as the song ended he would give such a flamboyant flourish I couldn’t help but smile. There were variances in each song’s performance too, at one point he was playing the bass with his fingers somewhere below his arse, in another he stopped playing altogether to throw the horns. It was an incredible piece of work and reminded me just how wonderful music can be.

It doesn’t matter how much stress or worry you may have had coming into the venue, for the hour or so your favourite band is playing it’s all forgotten. Again it takes you to your happy place and the joy of seeing him in his helped myself and Natalie enter ours more deeply.

The only thing to snap me out of it tonight (and it’s another tangent but for better or worse that’s how I write) was having finished the bottle of red and Natalie not wanting any more I ordered another glass for myself. When it came back it was definitely not the same one and tasted even to my unsophisticated taste buds (and confirmed by Natalie) like crap and to the point where for five minutes I told Natalie I was going to have to say something. The difference this time to others was I actually summoned my inner-American and went for it (it really was undrinkable to non-teenage mouths). When I say went for it, I of course still remained very British about it, sorry for being an asshole, don’t want to be a dick but… and amazingly it worked. I got a big apology, please don’t apologise, I shouldn’t have mentioned it at all… and a different and much more drinkable drink! It was a big moment in my life obviously and so I have ruined any of your desire to read another review by adding it in… now back to something you might care about.

Just having a gig at all is something that any music lover would appreciate the importance of. The world seemed normal again, the feelings you get hearing music live is like no other and can’t be replicated online. Of course you understand why there are online performances and it is better than nothing but the connection between audience and performers, that intimacy of being there, it’s just so special both for the audience and the band and they need each other to feed off.

Rosalie performed flawlessly and her band was great. The new songs showed huge potential for a great second album and the old songs were like seeing friends again that you hadn’t seen for a few years. Sure they had grown up a little but ultimately they held the same characteristics and personality that you loved them for in the first place.

Thanks to both the band and the venue it was lovely to feel normal again and to get back something that had been taken away from us. On one hand music isn’t that important, not compared to say your loved ones being taken away by Covid but on the other is so very important as it allows you to have moments of freedom away from all those important things. There is nothing like live music and to have it back for those two nights was special and unlike this now ridiculously long and sprawling (but not in a Yarn good way) review left me keenly wanting more. The band finished by covering Those Were The Days and myself and Natalie stepped back out into the world with smiles on our faces.