Live Review: Jesca Hoop

23 Mar

Jesca Hoop

Jesca Hoop, Brighton Ballroom, Monday, March 21, 2011

Californian singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop moved to Manchester a few years back and while the northern skies haven’t dampened her chirpy demeanour, new tracks suggest it has added a darker dimension to her songwriting.

Hoop has had enough celebrity backing to kickstart her career; Tom Waits, whose children she used to look after is a big fan, as is Elbow frontman Guy Garvey. But tonight proves she has enough top rate material, wit and story-telling panache to pull in crowds on talent alone.

She wastes no time in spilling her soul to the audience. She introduces Whispering Light by telling us it’s about how she taught her cancer stricken, Mormon mum to smoke cannabis for pain relief. It was the last time they spoke.

She then skips through a jaunty, hour-long set armed with just a guitar and aided by a backing singer. But this isn’t easy listening. Her sound is far too complex for that. This is largely because of a mischievous desire to cram more ideas into single tracks than many attempt on an entire album and her astounding vocal range . Her voice is deep and soulful, irratic and shouty, swooning and sultry, and this is often within the same song.

The darker edges are clearly evident on new track City Bird where her trademark schizophrenic style is replaced with a gritty realism and more conventional sound, but to no less impressive effect. Hoop is a rare talent; she’s musically ambitious, lyrically gifted and a born entertainer. And on a Monday night in March, there really isn’t much more you could ask for.

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