“I hate festivals, no one’s really up for crying at festivals,” jokes Luke Sital-Singh as he introduces the evening’s fourth track, ‘Inaudible Sigh.’ Further expressing his imaginings of starting his own annual event by the name of “Depressed-tival,” these are the first moments where the London born singer-songwriter reveals a healthy, self-deprecating awareness of his musical style. It is a welcome injection of light-heartedness, certainly considering the next song’s bleak nod to transience, and one is relieved to discover that he has such humour at his disposal to leaven the intense earnestness of tonight’s performance of impassioned folk-pop.
Currently touring his debut album “The Fire Inside” which was released on Parlophone last month, Sital-Singh has been lauded highly enough in some quarters to garner the label of Britain’s answer to Bon Iver. The 26 year old, though flattered by such comparisons, regards himself as rather “more of a straight-forward pop songwriter” and evidenced tonight is a display of sincere acoustic balladeering lent Radio 1 potential by the tremulous yet polished timbre of Sital-Singh’s undeniably powerful vocals.
It is his voice that is undoubtedly the star of tonight’s show and, with Sital-Singh largely appearing on stage alone (he is occasionally joined by a second musician on guitar or bass), the stripped back nature of the performance is one conducive to its flourishing. Opening song “I Have Been a Fire” contains early evidence of impressive falsetto skills while ‘Cornerstone’ provides fine touches of vocal versatility. However, it is perhaps in the sustained notes of ‘Luna,’ a love song desultorily inspired by his affection for a killer whale, where Sital-Singh’s voice truly soars.
Ironically, the case could be made that Sital-Singh’s vocals are a weakness in regards to his developing as a song-writer. Such are the merits of his voice that one wonders if some of the songs would stand up on their own without the dexterities of his vocal range; songs such as ‘Honest Man’ and ‘Inaudible Sigh’ would perhaps fall into the domain of “generic sensitive man with a guitar” without Sital-Singh’s voice to elevate them somewhere beyond mediocrity. A negative case can also be made for his lyrics; reported in some circles as occasionally rather unrefined, sixth form love poetry. Certainly it is easy to be dubious regarding one’s expressive use of lexicon when the somewhat clichéd angst of “The Fire Inside” has been deemed worthy as a debut album title.
Sital-Singh is a likeable enough stage presence; he seems genuinely appreciative of tonight being the only sold out show of the tour and he regales the audience with an anecdote regarding a past gig where a misunderstanding with a lighting man caused an unfortunate black out during the wrong part of the show. His patter, however, does occasionally drift into phlegmatic duty but this is possibly due to a noticed inattentiveness from some sections of the audience; the worst instance occurring when two girls stood right behind me and surely inebriated considering the inordinate fondness for their own laughter, loudly guffaw all over the quiet ending of ‘Honest Man.’
With ‘Dark’ and ‘Nearly Morning,’ Sital-Singh sits down at a keyboard to deliver a couple of welcome diversions from the guitar-based predominance and, being an instrument that snuggly fits around his vocal stylings, it is perhaps an avenue he should explore further. The evening’s highlight, however, is with the busy guitar pickings of the Damien Rice-tinged ‘Bottled Up Tight’; a song he intially fluffs and, self-effacingly promising to truncate the “boring” intro, he gets it right at the second attempt. It is the night’s best received song and one that offers a glimpse of a musical and melodic potential that may one day catch up with the controlled assuredness of his voice.
By Scott Hammond