Photography: Glyn Akroyd / @glynakroyd

JESCA HOOP

Mellowtone and Ceremony Concerts at The Magnet 5/4/17

JESCA HOOP’s life story is one of interest from the get-go. The child of Mormons, she worked as a nanny for Tom Waits before taking the decision to up sticks from sunny California and reside, instead, in the altogether damper, greyer climes of Chortlon-cum-Hardy on the advice of Guy Garvey from Elbow. It sounds like a backstory made up by a PR team on a sugar rush and after too much coffee. Yet, each word is true. Personal histories so colourful often lead to disappointment on the creative front – how can anything musical quite measure up to that intro? But, with each of the five albums Hoop has released up to now, she has continued to fascinate, throwing curveballs with each one.

The barefoot singer and songwriter has a kookiness to her tonight, appearing in a black sheet folded and wrapped around her body in a dress/cowboy chaps combo, hair a delicious, messy pile on top of her head. That voice carries the same sweetness and faerie-like quality as always, yet the title song of new album Memories Are Now is performed defiantly and boldly, harmonies from bandmates Kirana Peyton and Lucas Oswald strengthening and underpinning the ‘don’t fuck with me anymore ‘cos I’ve had enough’ message. She has layers, does Jesca Hoop. She delights in contradicting; what seems clear and easily understood is almost always anything but.

Hoop’s band file off the stage, smiling, as she prepares her solo segment. She starts to describe what she intends to play next, and the title of City Bird is mouthed by those all around me, as they take a 100% accurate guess. Written during Hoop’s time living in downtown Los Angeles, City Bird is received with a delighted thrill; the lines “You don’t sing like the birds from home sing/Your song is dying…” are beautiful and heartbreaking in equal measure.

Jesca Hoop enjoys a good wind up too, her impish sense of humour an added delight. It’s not long ‘til she has she has each and every one of us singing happy birthday to Lucas – and meaning every word of it. Once we’re done she reveals that no, it’s not his birthday at all, but no one minds the tease. Not one bit.

Hoop’s reputation as a musician’s musician, with little reach outside, is shown to be unfair; the audience is in love, head over heels, hearts and flowers. It happens so rarely that a roomful of people provides a silence for an artist throughout a gig, yet this evening they do. But watching her, I can’t help but feel that she, delivering her trademark fingerpicking in her DIY frock, is in a little world of her own. Gazing over the heads of the fellas on the front row who smile so dreamily at her for so long they must have jaw ache, she stays in her own zone, picturing a faraway land, maybe, and working out exactly how to get there.

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