Saraswati, Sonya Titus, and Bradley
The Troubadour, London
October 29, 2015
Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London #3
I’m in London for five nights and plan to review one show each night. Last night, Night #3 was an evening at The Troubadour. A few days after I booked my flight, this became the first show on my docket when Sonya Titus announced she was booked there. As you may have noticed, I’ve written and tweeted a lot about Sonya. Indeed, I’ve urged you to get out to this show. If you made it, you saw a great performance and heard one of the voices I most frequently recommend.
For the rest of you, let me tell you about the show. Now, you might notice the review of Sonya’s set is in quite a bit more detail than that of the other terrific artists on the bill tonight. No apologies. I was getting familiar with the other singers this evening, so I’ve written my usual brief live review summaries. However, I was already so familiar with the songs in Sonya’s performance I opted to chronicle them accordingly. Now let’s dive into what turned out to be a full evening of top-shelf vocal performances.
First Set: Saraswati
Saraswati performs an interesting style of music. She accompanies her sweet, high voice with strumming guitar. She sings all around the song’s melody, offering up her own delivery style — a distinctive, engaging style that pervades everything she performs, including making cover tracks seem like her own. With exceptional execution of her stylistic delivery throughout, overall, Saraswati’s set was an enjoyable one.
Second Set: Sonya Titus
Indeed, Sonya’s performance — the first time I have seen her perform live — was much-anticipated, and she didn’t disappoint. She kicked off the set with “Hypnotize,” proving she was in top form this evening. Second song, “Mamma,” showcased the richness of her voice as well her power, while also throwing in some high notes. Sonya followed that with a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “Guilty,” an interesting rendition in that most vocalists struggle with clarity on this cover, offering more rasp than in the original in order to find the emotion, while Sonya instead was able to deliver it with crystal clear power much more similar to Bonnie’s version. That takes a special talent.
The following song, “Now,” is the song that convinced me about Sonya two years ago due to the strength and delicacy required. This would seem to be a difficult song to match the studio precision in a live performance, yet Sonya pulled it off, including all of the song’s intricacies. She followed it up with her newest song, her first-ever live performance of “Resurrection”; if it’s possible for a song to sound bluesy without actually being bluesy, “Resurrection” does just that, while throwing in a bit of a haunting vibe for good measure.
Next up was another cover, Sonya’s rendition of “Stay With Me,” which is also available online. This is a widely covered song right now, and strong voices always make it sound good. She followed that with her second relatively new song, “The Other Side,” which suggests she may have added a little soulfulness (not a lot, just a little) to her trademark style in recent writing sessions, and it really fits the subject matter of “The Other Side” well. This new song also features an especially catchy rhythm, perhaps the reason it proved a crowd favorite.
After that, Sonya brought vocalist Azu onstage with her to cover “Lost and Found.” She had told me about Azu before, and she’s right, he is quite a talent with his great, high, strong voice complementing Sonya’s as a nice duet pairing.
Then Sonya closed her set with a cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” a song that shows off her lower register a bit. Worth noting is the nice arrangement that sped things up later in the song, giving an interesting flair to this number.
There’s a reason I’ve written and tweeted about Sonya Titus so much. It’s because, with performances like these in addition to her stellar recordings, she makes me look like a brilliant judge of talent. So glad to have been fortunate enough to catch a set like this while in London.
Third Set: Bradley
So how can someone follow a set like that? With his powerful, gravelly vocals, Bradley did a fine job. The first song utilized a build to power, and his vocals were able to sound emotional while still hitting all the notes, showcasing his talent immediately. Through Bradley’s set, he showed off his highs and lows over all tempos, slow and fast, while moving between loud and soft. Indeed, he always had that gravelly thing going on, which allows him to add a kind of bluesy edge to what might otherwise be considered straight-up pop/rock tune. He closed his thoroughly engaging set with “Carolina,” the best of a very good set of songs. During “Carolina,” power built during the song, while being exceptionally vocally emotional. Overall, Bradley’s set proved an exceptional end to an evening of fine performance.