Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop At The Olympia Theatre – Review & Photos
Quietly strolling onto the illustrious stage, The Olympia’s seated faithful raise their voices to greet Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop, offering in return passing salutation to those gathered below. A stripped back set up, two guitars each and nothing more, affords the audience an insight into the night’s agenda as the pair tour their April release, Love Letter for Fire, a collaborative duets album of original material.
‘Kiss me Quick’ opens the evening, a quiet introspective love song with gentle fingerpicked guitar and close vocal harmonies. Silencing the chatter immediately, all ears are tuned to the gentle bespoke folk, beautiful in its delivery and decidedly delicate.
Swapping verses and sharing lines, Sam strums the guitar gently and Jesca sways side to side, as they move through ‘Know the Wild that Wants You’. The catchy chorus and chanting at the end is ethereal as twangy acoustic keeps picking until the finish.
With a casual easy dynamic between the pair, humorous chatter cheers up the Tuesday blues. Jesca jokes about the smoke machine erupting on stage and rows an imaginary boat through a fictional marsh as she requests that the fog remain precisely at that level. Beam is in brilliant form as well, deadpan irony cuts chuckles through the crowd and keeps sides shaking with laughter, ‘I have a tendency to tease, I hope you’re not fragile’ he intones flatly.
Hushed harmonies hum softly all evening, their voices so settled and comfortable in each other’s company as both sing throughout a beautiful rendition of Iron & Wine’s ‘Belated Promise Ring’. Moving into ‘Bright Lights and Goodbyes’, Beam’s elegant falsetto is crisp at the end, a perfect counterpoint to Hoop’s soft and silken vocal offering.
With no other musicians to flesh out the songs, one would expect the set to be short, but Beam’s wry, ironic sense of humour and Jesca’s quirky disarming disposition form together to create a hilarious spoken spectacle, the pair joking and laughing, teasing and testing the audience with humorous anecdotes and witty interchanges lengthening proceedings. ‘This song has been described as sailing two boats at the one time’, Beam remarks hilariously as a preface to ‘The Lamb you Lost’. Possessing a quaint English folk guitar style, his acoustic provides an open sound as Hoop plays an electric, muted and stabbing, her rhythm underpinning the track.
Trading lines and then joining together, making a sweeter noise together than separately ‘One Way to Pray’ is certainly a highlight, with soft electric strumming the rhythm as acoustic bounces and jangles underneath whilst a Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton cover of ‘Islands in the Stream’ is presented in a passionate rendition, unnerving but richly captivating and darkly original.
The set is peppered with pieces from both artists back catalogues, Jesca presenting ‘City Bird’ about Los Angeles, a forlorn waltz plucked gently on electric guitar with an emotive melody, tinged with sorrow and regret whilst Sam sings Iron & Wine favourite ‘Resurrection Fern’. Sweet and subtle, the slowed down rendition, the audience catch on at the chorus and cheer its arrival.
Closing the curtain, ‘Sailor to Siren’ with its gently picked guitar and soaring harmonies presents an appropriate conclusion to the evening’s offering, just before Sam and Jesca return for a solitary encore singing ‘Love is a Stranger’ by Eurythmics with whispered vocals fading to a fitting finish.
Photos by David Doyle
Review by Andy Guyett