Liv Austen & Emma Ballantine

March 2, 2018
Coal House Café, Woodberry Wetlands

‘The Beast From The East,’ Storm Emma, knocked out transport, schools and, unfortunately, several people. When everything else was being closed and cancelled, the Sunset Sounds folks decided to persevere. That’s how a little café at the end of a snowy boardwalk became a toasty haven filled with sound.

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“It’s really great to be sandwiched between you”
Once Anna Pancaldi had warmed up the crowd, Liv Austen stepped up to offer a Norwegian perspective ::drum roll:: “I hate this weather so much.” Profound, Austen! To be fair, she elaborated: “It’s just pointless in London, you can’t really use it for anything.”

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The crowd may not have had sense enough to stay home when the news and transport firms were urging it, but they did realise that it’s sensible to stay silent during a Liv Austen set. For that, they were rewarded with a flawless and extra feisty performance. She effortlessly hit the sweet spot in Part-Time Sweetheart. Classic Austen. When she picked up the pace with Train of Thought, there was well-placed fire in the vocals.

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She was on top form with the banter too; even guitarist Jon Wright commented on it with a wry gin, before throwing in extra guitar flourishes in Same Story for good measure.

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After a seriously sassy cover of Sigrid’s Don’t Kill My Vibe, Austen gave the crowd their moment to shine. She taught them the simple but effective “ooh ooh ooh ooh” refrain of The Next Time and then conducted them with “weird, big eyes.” Whatever works! Absolute tune, as ever.

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Austen followed that storming song with her equally catchy new single, Don’t Regret A Single One. It may have been freezing outside but this night was a decent warm up for Austen’s three showcases at C2C festival at The O2 the following weekend.

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Liv Austen’s new single, Don’t Regret A Single One, is out now. Head  to her website to download it, and to sign up to her mailing list for a free track and updates on the recording of her debut album.

“My name is Emma and apparently so is the storm”
Explaining that the latest news hit a little close to home, Emma Ballantine joked about striking headlines such as ‘Emma blocked the motorway.’

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She expressed sincere thanks to the crowd for braving the storm: “I’m always amazed that people come to my gigs, and that’s without subzero temperatures!” It was  worth the effort. She shared entertaining stories between thoughtful songs delivered with distinctive vocals, accompanied by George on bass.

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Storytelling was especially important when performing songs from her album, Somebody’s Story, based on other people’s lives. When introducing Harmonise, we learned of two men’s chance meeting at a concert in Chicago. They met several times more until one of them died suddenly. As Ballantine described it, Brian went “from stranger to friend to memory” in a matter of weeks. It was important to contextualise, she explained, otherwise people tend to think she’s singing about a romantic relationship; “because I’m female it sounds a bit sexy.”

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The stories weren’t confined to the songs. Being at a wetland centre brought back memories of a school trip where the sole encounter with wildlife was a fish. A dead fish!

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Fall and new single Love For Rent both had a nice tone, while Astronaut was increasingly reminiscent of She Makes War’s work the more it layered up with loops. All in all, Ballantine closed out a night of talent with a warm set, leaving punters heading off into the storm with huge smiles on their faces.

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Emma Ballantine’s latest single, Love For Rent, is out now, available through her website

Like what you see? There are more photos of the show over on Flickr. Please follow me there, and here:

Twitter: @redrospective
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Want more photos? Try my travel, nature and street photography website, Out To The Streets!

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