It is Lucy Rose’s opening night of her UK tour and her merchandise is tea and jam, which she sells herself, along with the rest of her band after the gig. For anyone else this would seem a little odd, but for a girl whose been called “one of the country’s most promising new voices”, it makes a lot of sense that she aligns herself with the best of British.
Beginning her tour on an otherwise miserable Sunday night at Bodega, she had soulful acoustic guitar player Pete Roe as the support, having already toured and worked with indie dreamboats Laura Marling and The Staves, Roe – with his husky dog eyes and melancholy folk tunes – was the perfect choice to open. He played his 45 minute set before spending the latter part of the show helping Lucy change her guitars between songs. This complete lack of separation of performers and audience (the stage is only two steps higher than the floor) is one of the best things about gigs at Bodega. Even as we were waiting for the show to start, the man behind us came over to his friends and said did anyone want to go for a fag with him because Lucy Rose was sitting outside in the smoking area and she’s only this tall.
Less than ten minutes later to screaming applause she sat down with her guitar and began to play. The tiny strawberry blonde singer was otherworldly on stage, so small she had to sit on a wooden stool on top of stacked wooden pallets and a suitcase to be high enough to sing into the microphone, under Bodega’s disco lights she looked ethereal. The stuffed monkey on the amp behind her didn’t help either. She opened with ‘First’ and as she played, eyes closed, the room went silent. There was that ever elusive ‘Hush’. For someone known for acoustic sets, she came on stage with a drummer, electric guitarist, bassist and keyboardist.
Having already toured the UK, US and Canada with Bombay Bicycle Club and Noah and the Whale, Lucy Rose knew how to work a room. She didn’t speak much, but kept her eyes on the crowd, thanked everyone for coming and asked if the people at the back of the room could hear her okay. But any initial fears of her vocal being gentle or weak were dispelled the second she opened her mouth.
Her voice was flawless. She sang the hauntingly lovely ‘Night Bus’ with nothing but an acoustic guitar as easily as she belted out ‘Lines’ with full band plus tambourine. It was a feast for die hard fans, with a setlist including most every song off her recently released album Like I Used To, which had been a YouTube sensations long before they made it onto the record. From ‘Middle of the Bed’ to ‘Scar’, the performance was relentless, closing the set with the crowd favourite ‘Bikes’. Though the band added a depth and vitality to otherwise normally acoustic songs, her breathtakingly confessional lyrics really came alive when she had nothing but her voice and her guitar.
Though she sang with the quiet confidence of a seasoned musician, and no doubt she is, when she played a new song she had only just written, she excused herself for making mistakes and told the crowd “I don’t know if I can play that on the rest of the tour. It’s too terrifying”. That is part of the beauty of Lucy Rose’s music; there’s a fragility to it. An enchanting rawness that makes the lyrics feel as if they are being torn from someplace dark and beautiful and what makes her music so desperately lovely. And if the awed silence was anything to go by, everyone else in the room felt the same way too.
As she finished, the small room filled with her soaring vocals and the voices of the crowd chanting the lyrics back to her; surely Bodega was made for nights like this. If the rest of Lucy Rose’s tour goes anything like her opening night, it will be nothing short of wonderful.