A gaggle of excited women await with high anticipation outside thearches of Heaven, the venue for Lucy Spraggan’s 16th night of a 17 date tour around the UK in support of her third studio album We Are.
On entry, the dark night club venue, usually home to sweatcovered shirtless men on a Friday night, gives way to a cavern-like atmosphere. Hundreds of young women, and a handful of boys too, wait patiently in front of the thankfully high stage, filling the dancefloor beyond any capacity for disco moves (despite going independent from studio backing with her own label CTRL Records).
But that’s not why we are here. Faithful fans, the “Spraggs” in LS branded attire and tattoos, take selfies and talk excitedly about what they expect from the night and how many times they have seen Spraggan perform live previously, while the light dances at the top of the staircase creating a Led Zeppelin-esque ambiance.
One of the more accessible musicians on the modern scene, many have already met their hero and swap stories of autograph and photo opps. Supported by two warm up acts, the pleasant Bethany, a singer songwriter with a super voice and a brilliant mash up of Toxic and Crazy in Love – the kind of mash up that would do well in the Live Lounge and the lively Kal Lavelle who has opened on all the dates of this tour.
Lavelle brings an enticing sense of energy before the main event unlike many other warm ups seen before, a cheerful Irish charmer with a sweet voice and a great set of originals alongside a crowdpleasing vesion of Gnarles Barclay’s Crazy.
It’s not much longer to wait for what we’ve all come along for and for the final time the lights dim before brightening to reveal Spraggan and her band – a stripped back affair of percussion, piano and bass behind Spraggan and her carousel of guitars.
Opening with the lively In this Church the tone is set for a high octane set and the appreciation sets in early as Spraggan appears confident and more at home on stage than ever before – and we are on the admiring end of a well-honed performance that still maintains the authenticity and personal connection of every live show Spraggan has given in the last three years.
A rousing Lighthouse brought the old-school to the table, and it’s great to see that there is a strong catalogue of original material to choose from – that careful selections have been made to bring something special
together. The apt London Bound kept the energy high and even though WE ARE was released less than twenty days ago, the fans are already singing along to every word.
The mood shifts as Spraggan skillfully segueways into the darker side of the new album, and Coming Down is a figurative release of addiction she tells us, that oozes despair finding a glimmer of hope in a reconiliation of closure.
I don’t know is the ‘break up’ song following neatly from despair and is a much more optimistic perspective of the end of things.
On the wings of Butterflies and Join the Club we are instantly lifted up, and reminded that it’s important to love. The simple hint of rearrangement of the classic numbers giving just enough twist to stave predictability. The signature of Spraggan’s story-telling song comes to life in The Postman (and later of course, fan favourite Tea and Toast heightened with additional piano) leaving barely a dry eye in the house as gut wrenching tales of life-long love coming to
dramatic ends wend their way into our hearts.
The famed new guitar gets a good turn out, none the more so in the Beating the Blues song – a kind of anti-blues song, revelling in a new electric rearrangement.
Last Night will always please the crowd, synonymous with Spraggan’s sense of humour, and also core to the appeal of her repertoire (and the singalong to Jeremy Kyle later in the evening just proves this further). Spraggan has been upfront that the tracks on WE ARE come from some of the very real experiences she’s had since the X Factor journey began three years ago. With songs like Broken Bones and IOU it’s clearly been a wild ride meeting a whole range of individuals, but there’s something very charming about the episodes and how they are conveyed in music, IOU in particular plays very well with form, bouncing between reggae and folk.
The most poignant moment all evening came from the piano-only backed Papercuts – an offer of comfort to young people who have struggled in their lives to reach happiness.
Second perhaps only to Uninspired, which lays the whole X Factor journey’s impact out on Spraggan’s sleeve, in a delicate and honest outpour. It resolves by giving itself closure through a reflective understanding that it came good in the end – what remains are the music and the fans in a happy bond together.
There’s two anthems to end the night, Wait for Me and Unsinkable. Both hold the gravitas it takes to send off the crowd feeling Spraggan’s inimitable talent deep in the core.
Incredibly, being the penultimate date of a month-long tour, it felt as fresh as though it was the first night. Spraggan gives a lot on stage – not just the music and the songs, and the emotion and stories behind them, but a genuine appreciation back to the fans – so much so it’s easy to feel like it’s watching an old friend up there, with a giant sense of pride at the success she rightfully deserves. It was a stellar set.