I have a long history of rebellion with churches. From defiantly singing Rupert the Bear over hymns as a toddler, to having my first kiss with a boy called Cashew. Last night I cracked open my first can of Carlsberg in a church.
Something about the pop of the cans being opened bought out the teenager in me, giggling every time that joyous noise punctuated the silence between Emil’s (a.k.a Loney, Dear’s) beautiful presentation of his latest album Hall Music.
St Pancras Old Church was dotted with candles, religious icons still on display. The intimate audience perched respectfully on their pews. As the night went on the initially hesitant clapping increased in volume and by the end of the evening people were brave enough to whoop and shout for an encore without fearing the wrath of God. Lovers stole kisses in the shadows under the twelve Stations of the Cross, people didn’t look so guilty drinking standard wine from paper cups, and those standing shuffled their feet and risked a few dance moves.
What the setting did insist, without speaking a word or uttering instruction, was that we listen. Ears wide open, every looped back echo of Emil’s voice, the incidental chiming of the church bells, the vibration of the drum echoing through the aisles.
I can’t recall the last time I was so captivated, focused, hypnotized at a gig. That quaint little church with its cracked walls and exposed brickwork leant to the emotions evoked on Hall Music.
The heartbreaking, haunting and ultimately redemptive album instantly and urgently caught my heart and caused a lump in my throat on its first play. But to see Loney, Dear perform this live is simply breathtaking and beyond words which is problematic for yours truly trying to review it. This is no “one man band” gimmick. Loney, Dear is a one man orchestra. Playing guitar, drum, sampler and loop station. I found myself creeping up to the alter long after the gig finished to gaze down at his equipment, scratching my head and trying to find the logic behind one man creating noise to match what the Arcade Fires seven figured ensemble achieve.
One meek soul did eventually put their hand up and asked why they had split the two events at St Pancras Old Church into a blue and green night. His frank response was that he had no idea, it was the PR Company, but he felt it was a good idea. He’d have preferred an Earl Grey and wine night however.
Last night’s blue gig would have been for the tea drinkers I am certain. A peaceful, calm way to ease your way into the week.
Hall Music was played in its entirety and as the album itself is so complete, it’s difficult to pick out stand out tracks. D Major, Young Hearts, My Heart (above) and Calm Down were perhaps the songs that soared to the rafters the most. It will be hard to imagine this album being played anywhere other than unanticipated, unimagined, unique venues.
It should be seen at faded old band stands, brightly coloured paintwork flaking to the ground. Under faraway trees huddled round campfires. In hidden coves, hidden from the world. Loney, Dear and gigs in churches have made me revaluate just how much I’m hearing when I go to gigs. That lesson can only be a positive.