Holly Macve Live at St John’s on Bethnal Green, London E2 – 6 April 2017
One of the best things about turning up reasonably early to a gig is discovering a new act who is playing the support slot for the artist you came to see. Less than a year after seeing her play ahead of Laura Gibson, Galway born, Yorkshire raised singer songwriter Holly Macve is out headlining her own tour promoting her debut album, Golden Eagle, released by Bella Union late last month.
The London leg of the tour brought her to St John’s on Bethnal Green church – built shortly after the Napoleonic wars and designed by renowned architect Sir John Soare – in London’s East End. The show was sold out.
Holly stepped out alone with her guitar just after 9:30; she was joined by her guitar player for the second tune, and the full band for the third song, Heartbreak Blues. Switching between acoustic guitar and keyboard, she stops mid-set and asks the audience if they’d like to hear a new song or Fear from the album. Opinion trends to the latter and she delivers the song so beautifully you could have heard a pin drop but for the self-absorbed couple yakking away to my right.
Only 21, she commands the stage and leads her band like a seasoned performer. At times her voice reminds me of Joni Mitchell, at others of Judee Sill but it’s stronger than both of those.
The set includes a cover of Melanie’s We Don’t Know Where We’re Going which had me wondering whether I should revisit Ms Safka’s output. The set closed with the album’s title track, written she told us for her grandfather, also a musician, who had died a couple of years ago.
Leaving the stage to rapturous applause, Holly returned to perform a solo acoustic version of Sycamore Tree, which is also the final track on Golden Eagle.
I’d go so far as to say that Holly Macve is one of the most impressive performers I’ve seen in quite a time and I shouldn’t be at all surprised if she steps up to signifcantly larger venues in the near future. She’s out on tour in the UK and the US as well as being booked for a number of festivals in the summer. The video below is from Bristol a couple of days earlier.