Photo: Maren Farra www.marenfarra.com
Review by Clare Knight
14/05/13 The Water Rats, London
After doing an interview with the American blues/hip hop artist ZZ Ward, we headed over to The Water Rats in King’s Cross to catch her first ever headline show in London. This was a bit of a whirlwind tour for the singer as she was doing one show in the UK then off around Europe for a bit and this was all happening with no set date for a UK release of her music. Lucky for us, the Internet allows us to hear and watch her perform her songs.
The show started with three members of ZZ’s band amping up the crowd and getting them ready for a show, and they did well seeing as it was a reserved British crowd that they were talking to! I will take this moment to mention that ZZ Ward has the happiest band I have seen in a very long time and to be honest, it was really refreshing to see. They all fed off of each other for energy (not that there was any lacking) and generally made the gig enjoyable to watch. It was evident from the beginning of the show that the music on her album had already reached the UK with the majority of the audience singing along to every word and after looking around I could tell that she had a good core of fans in the UK already.
The four piece band including ZZ made a big sound in the small room packed full with bodies at The Water Rats. Tracks like Put The Gun Down and Til The Casket Drops were big favourites with the crowd and showcased the bands live sound amazingly (despite some sound glitches by the venue). Although the crowd clearly enjoyed these songs, I think they were completely won over when the set was brought down a little to a deep southern blues style. This was around about the time that ZZ brought out a harmonica and sat down with her guitarist to play an incredible cover of Son House’s Grinnin’ In Your Face. She is a talented harmonica player as well as vocalist and it was during this song that her blues roots really shone through. She told us of her love for the blues in between songs and introduced her next track, Charlie Ain’t Home as a response to Etta James’ Waiting For Charlie.
Last Love Song showed yet another side to ZZ’s music and songwriting through a melancholy farewell love song to a man that, as she confessed, most of the album Til The Casket Drops was about. Then the band launched back into bass filled hip hop beats and grinning faces again. It was obvious that by the second half of the set that the band were really warmed up, which the crowd picked up on. There was not much encouragement needed from ZZ for crowd participation in Blue Eyes Blind and to end on a bang, the set finished with the hugely popular track, Move Like U Stole It.
The crowd needed a little encouragement to make some noise for an encore, but I don’t think that reflects on the quality of the show… it’s just the British being reserved once again! However, when ZZ came back out for an encore the room erupted again. She is a talented musician who has worked with some amazing producers and musicians for her debut album. Although a release date in the UK is yet to be announced, I would not let that stop you from searching the web for more on ZZ Ward. You will be hearing more about her soon enough.
If you can’t wait for a UK release date, you can purchase the album as an import on Amazon: http://amzn.to/Y5n77D