sun 16/06/2024

Basia Bulat, Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen | reviews, news & interviews

Basia Bulat, Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen

Basia Bulat, Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen

Consummate display of musical urgency from Canada’s revitalised singer-songwriter

Have cape, will travel. Basia Bulat in the sparkly gold totem of her renewal

The cape is not an everyday item of clothing. Worn by magicians, it brings an air of the extraordinary. It billows in the path of superheroes. The cloak of invisibility confirms the cape’s singularity. Basia Bulat was first seen in a sparkly gold cape on the sleeve of her recent Good Advice album and last night it was integral to the renewed vigour of her music and stage persona.

Moved to say how hard it was play guitar with its folds fluttering, she nonetheless did not take the easy path and discard it.

None of this is to say that Bulat would lack anything without the cape, but it is certainly a vital ingredient in her current approach to her music. Before Good Advice, Canada’s Bulat was shaded by the wide umbrella of Americana. She played acoustic guitar, autoharp and ukulele, and was folky. Her songs were tinged with gospel. After a romantic break-up, she recorded the new album with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James in Kentucky. The result: the touchstones remained but there was an added urgency, stronger songs than ever and new leanings towards a dance-infused electropop. This show, the first of a short string of UK dates, would answer the question of whether she had entirely made herself over, or whether the before and after would exist – perhaps uncomfortably – side by side.

The world could be hers for the taking

In the event, neither scenario ensued. The astonishing factor last night was how everything was scooped up and moulded into a cohesive whole. Her old audience were not going to be lost by the new approach. Bulat’s pleasure at the result shone. For the entire show, she beamed and visibly fizzed. During “Wires”, from her 2013 Tall Tall Shadow album, she left the stage for a quick dance with an audience member.

Good Advice – notwithstanding a three-song, mid-set solo spot with her autoharp – has helped the live interpretation of her music become sharper, bringing precise edges it did not have previously. In large part, this is to do with her rhythm section of Evan Tighe (drums) and Ben Whiteley (bass), who nailed every song to the floor. They were, though, mixed too loud so drowned out the backing vocals of Tamara Lindeman, guitarist-keyboard player Andrew Woods and Bulat herself. With the pep of a kid’s TV presenter, Bulat flitted between keyboards and guitar without a blink.

The flawlessness on stage was balanced against Bulat’s warmth: it is impossible not to like her. But in the end it comes down to the songs. The set was weighted towards Good Advice, with nine of the album’s 10 songs aired (“The Garden” was AWOL). Kicking off with a kinetic “Fool”, there was barely a pause for breath until the final “Infamous”. As well as “Wires”, the older songs included "Tall Tall Shadow” and “Heart of my Own”. As the recent album’s "Let me in" gave way to “Long Goodbye" and then "In the Name of”, it felt that anthem was following anthem.

Overall, there was a country edge not apparent in the studio takes of the newer songs. Fleetwood Mac were in there too. Could she give Miley Cyrus a run for her money? Possibly; with class, and without the cheeseball aspects. She concluded by saying “I am extremely lucky I get to travel around the world like some strange nomad in gold. And I take none of this for granted.” The refreshing candour reveals that her feet are firmly grounded in reality. But with that cape as the totem of her renewal Basia Bulat showed last night that, if she chooses, the world could be hers for the taking.

Could Basia Bulat give Miley Cyrus a run for her money? Possibly. And without the cheeseball aspects


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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