Her O2 Academy Brixton show marks a rare UK appearance.
Words by Tom White
There’s nothing stopping Becca Stevens from visiting her burgeoning fanbase in England at the moment. It’s her fourth show in London within the space of three months!
This time around, Stevens brings her pal Michelle Willis, keyboard genius who’s recently been on the road in the States with David Crosby. Together with her regular trio of support – Chris Tordini on bass, Liam Robinson on keys and accordion and Jordan Perison on drums – this evening at the Troubadour brings two sets of cuts from Stevens’ albums Perfect Animal and this year’s new release, the dazzling Regina. Long story short, in the league of current female singer-songwriters, Stevens sits atop with a clear 15-point lead; her live performances of her catalogue of quirky, scholarly and innovative songs are simply among the best shows you will catch anywhere on the planet.
During soundcheck, the band works on harmonising the final section of 45 Bucks, a ‘see-you-later-mate-don’t-bother-coming-back’ jazzy kiss-off to an erstwhile friend, one of the stand-outs from Regina. Stevens works with Tordini and Willis to piece together vocal parts prior to the song’s run-out later in the show. Shortly after, doors open and The Troubadour’s empty basement throbs to capacity within a matter of minutes. Unusually for such a genteel venue, there’s some jostling as fans scamper to snag the best seats.
Stevens kicks off with I Asked and catches the atmosphere of the house from the get-go. The vocal labyrinth of Queen Mab (Mercutio’s speech from Romeo and Juliet set to an otherworldly and wholly original sound) is a show-stopper; sing-along Lean On and Harbour Hawk are intricate, sinuous and please the ear. Willis drives the momentum by keeping the rhythm and adventuring up and down her keyboard; Stevens invites Oli Rockberger to the stage and they perform his brand new song Canyon Dust. A cover of Usher’s You Make Me Wanna leads into the break. There’s much to enjoy.
The second half begins with old favourite Tillery; new songs Ophelia, Well Loved and Regina are nailed down by an extremely tight combo of support who are on point all night. Whether it’s the jet-lag or the steaming heat of the venue, Stevens’ mystical purr of a voice takes on a huskier tone and The Muse (adapted and arranged by David Crosby as By the Light of Common Day on his new release) is sung in a soporific, dream-like drawl that captivates, much like the evening itself, from start to close. Part Midsummer Night’s Dream, part Jazz on a Hot Summer’s Day – magic.