Review by Luke Das
The ruby red hues of KOKO, Camden’s lighting sets the ambience for the acts that are to follow. Browsers in horn-rimmed glasses rifle through feather boas and bowler hats amongst the vintage clothing stands that have set up shop. Meanwhile, scratchy recordings of 1930’s big band inspire a lady in evening attire to quickstep across the dance floor to her seat. A love of music, crafts and culture are the theme of the evening.
The raggedy and bearded Pat Dam Smyth is the first performer to entertain the onlookers. By his own admission he is a busker who after ten years on the road has a suntan and a few good stories to tell. His deep Irish accent is immediately charming and easy on the ear. His delicately plucked guitar with almost psychedelic vocalisations are unusual and it is perhaps his personality that trumps his capabilities as a performer. This is followed by The Forget Me Nots an ensemble of fairground fortune-tellers that liberate alluring, swaying and tumbling melodies. Marcella Puppini draws most of the attention as the front-woman in a slinky satin dress with a voice somewhere between howling and classically trained bellowing.
A spotlight pierces across a gathering crowd and an announcer gives Gabby Young the pomp and circumstance welcoming she deserves. Adoration for fashion is apparent for all the acts tonight. Young meagrely glides onto the stage in a liquorice monochrome dress with red flowing locks and glittered brows. Her levels of exuberance never cease throughout. Yet she also displays a humbling attitude to be playing such a large venue on the back of a US tour. It is Young’s vocal strength that holds the band together. The sounds of the underground jazz brass section physically trumpet her back at times but when interest is drawn back to her, she is able to carry the music forwards. Acoustic song Honey is a chance to demonstrate her talents as a solo artist. She is evidently able to take contemporary influences such as Feist and marry them with established names such as Ella Fitzgerald. Single We’re All In This Together brings a warming, slowing and fragile pace. Its haunting guitar arpeggio with banjo chimes is a wonderful backing for this worthy soulful anthem.
At every opportunity the show shifts into a performing arts experience. Circus acrobats scale the heights of the stage at one juncture. However, a dance company doing the Charleston brings a new level of exuberance with a flurry of mint green kid gloves and bow ties that was the highlight of the evening. The routines seem spontaneous, tie in with the music and are always complementary. Smiles, waves and songs dedicated to loved ones are how Young chooses to close. And with pride her crowd responds and conveys their sentiments back to her.