The ‘evening with’ format that DHP specialises in is an honest attempt to bring together four talented performers, who you might not get to see individually, in one show. On this particular evening – the third night of their collective tour- it doesn’t quite work as well as it might have. Delaying the very early start slightly might have drawn the larger crowd they deserve – however, this quartet’s chilled aesthetic does suit a late-night slot. Siv Jakobsen’s debut album is even called ‘The Nordic Mellow’.
First up was Dorset’s Fenne Lily, fresh from an appearance at Reeperbahn Festival’s award ceremony that she came very close to winning – though speaking to her after tonight’s show, was remarkably laid-back about not doing. She sings in what is possibly the sweetest, most hushed voice on the circuit right now – even when her mic’s collapsing on her – with an individual twist on relationships. ‘Car Park’, for example, recounts a lost weekend spent sleeping with “a dick”. She might write a follow-up about Manchester’s car parking charges; there would be plenty of material there for a vitriolic tirade. Don’t expect fancy musicianship with this lady – she does what she has to do, and that’s all. It’s all in the voice – and all in the lyrics.
Brighton-based Paul Thomas Saunders, once famously described by The Guardian as “arriving at the intersection of Jeff Buckley Street and Radiohead Boulevard”, was a softly spoken male. Visually, he was a dead ringer for the Band on the Wall motif behind him – though I was probably the only one to notice. He’s a polished performer without doubt, with a good vocal range -especially strong on the high notes and when building his songs to climaxes. Switching between acoustic guitar and some Paul Simon/Richard Clayderman style piano, the only blot on a top class performance was the failure of the mic used in support of one of his songs.
Just when you thought that voices couldn’t be quieter, up pops Oslo’s Siv Jakobsen for her second live Manchester performance this year. The previous Gullivers one was with an extremely good band who perhaps detracted a little from the fragile quality of her voice; tonight, alone with mainly just an acoustic guitar for company, her presence is quite astonishing. “I’m going to serenade you with sad songs like the others” Jakobsen says – and she does. ‘Not Alone’ concerns living a single life and not regretting it, something she clearly feels passionate about and a theme that recurs throughout her songs. A serious person who she possesses charming humour, her personality is encapsulated in ‘Berry & Wythe’ – a reference to when she lived close to the famous Music Hall in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. The lyrics portray the disharmony in her private life at that time – but there is none whatsoever in her music.
The final performer was the likeable, St Ives-born Sivu (aka James Page) – who, not wanting to be known as ‘the other Jimmy Page’, took the Finnish equivalent of page (sivu) as his stage name. Influenced by Frank Sinatra, his stage performance and his songs are a little different from the other three; it’s more animated, he has a comedian’s stock of jokes, and he even has a touch of Ed Sheeran about him at times.
Disconcertingly, he repeatedly asks the crowd “are you alright”? But, as he adds, with the stage lights blinding him, there might be no-one out there for all he knows. He sings about loneliness, too, but from a more depressive perspective. Perhaps it’s something he should discuss with Siv Jakobsen.
These multi-artist touring ‘introducing’ sessions across the country serve a distinct purpose. The first venue on this tour, for example, was in Shrewsbury – which doesn’t often get high quality musicians visiting it like the big cities do. DHP’s sessions are worthy of support as writers and performers with something to say can easily pass under the radar. All four are definitely worth making the effort to see the next time they’re in your neighbourhood.