Picture the scene: Scala, London, on a cold, rainy Monday evening. Rarely the hub of music industry excitement. Unless of course it’s warmed right up by Island Records showcasing some of their most exciting recent signees, tastemaker-touted trio (see what we did there?) JUCE, wonderous wordsmith (alright, too much) George the Poet and dread-donning (we couldn’t resist) soulman JP Cooper.
In from the rain, the JUCE girls got things started with their very own brand of soul/funk/90’s vibes-pop. With the room filling up, the tone was set and the energy rising for the new age social commentator that is George the Poet.
If this guy’s talent were a secret, it’s been as well kept as [insert badly kept secret of the past]. So well kept that Scala was heaving with a surprisingly eclectic crowd awaiting his arrival with a cult-like enthusiasm. Coming from the world of spoken word and taking a great deal of pride in having something to say (most passionately about social and political issues), George’s set better resembles a well considered theatre production than a regular artist performance. And as such, it is infinitely more exciting. Track by track the audience follows the familiar story of a rocky relationship and premature parenthood told on his upcoming EP, Chicken & the Egg (check out the previews here). Needless-to-say, there’s nothing groundbreaking about the content and yet there is something impressively compelling about listening to the story unfold and watching the young man telling it with unswerving swagger whilst very honestly addressing the social issues created in fatherless homes. Super laid back, calming and uplifting, the crowd was eating out of his hand from start to finish with a good five-minute cheering encore to welcome him back, then joined by the evening’s headliner, JP Cooper.
Post his first sold-out headline show at Oslo, London, we may be unforgiving of those sleeping on Cooper. With a soulful and genuine grit to his voice, and that natural warmth that anyone-north-of-the-M25 exudes (he’s Mancunian), he took to the stage in a most polite and humble manner. Pervading the usual awkwardness of a silent London crowd, the sold-out room was slowly lulled in to rather a comforting calm (as if he’d walked around the room and hugged us each individually). The set showcased tracks from his recently released EP Keep the Quiet Out, a collection of honest, deep, romantic songs alongside some older material and a notable Angie Stone cover. Bringing the night to a close, it seemed that cockles had been warmed and the rain didn’t look quite so bad.
Pouring out of Scala, it became apparent that there were more than a few familiar faces in the crowd. Always telling when a show is full of A&R’s, label folk and legal teams from every single UK label; sign of the genuine respect and regard that the label has earned over its 50 years. And so, Island Records had done what they do so well; reminded us all that they continue to sign real music, great music with the soul and substance that will forever be the signature of the Island roster. Word to Alex and the Island family, we’re looking forward to the next Island Life!
N.B. Word to all other artists, everywhere, ever: if in doubt, make like George and dedicate a section of your set to your influences… but only if they throwback to Dizzee Rascal, More Fire Crew, The Streets, So Solid Crew et al. It. Went. Off.