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SoKo at Union Chapel Review


Everything about my most recent musical adventure (a ten-minute bike ride and a twenty-minute wait for Baxter at Highbury & Islington tube) was steeped in weirdness and wonderfulness in equal measure. The difference between the two is hard to define, but a combination of weirdness and wonderfulness is often a joy to behold.

First things first, aside from having clocked a couple of lo-fi YouTube clips I knew nothing of SoKo. Sure, I did some cramming and listened to her most recent album before heading down, but by no means enough to have a grasp on anymore than a couple of tracks. One thing that I did learn from the World Wide Web is that she holds a similar amount of clout in both music and acting which I found impressive.

Secondly, and as SoKo explained on a number of occasions during her show, the title of her new album 'I Thought I was An Alien' is not a clever one, it is as literal an album title as there ever has been. As SoKo walks around planet Earth, and this is testament to the wonderful way in which she lives her life, she cannot believe that she is the same as the other humanoids going about their business. While the album title might suggest that she once thought she was an alien, I have a sneaking suspicion that she still believes strongly in her intergalactic properties...

I don't know about you, but there is a lot to be said for not really knowing what you are off to see. Stadium rock fans would disagree, the folk that spend triple figures on Foo Fighter's tickets will refute this claim, and while they do have a point, I found not-knowing-nothing gloriously refreshing. It was a bit like bumping into someone on the street that you have not seen for years. On occasions it's the best; that long lost love, the tag team partner, the war veteran hombre, but, and let's be real, most of the time it is the worst.

My buddy Jake certainly had no idea what he was in for. I asked him if he fancied coming to a show near his house and he agreed, no questions asked. I know Jake well and I knew that SoKo may not have been his cup of tea, but I didn't care.

So onto Union Chapel - the finest venue in the entire city of London. There is no question in my mind about this stone cold FACT. Yesterday was the first time I was lucky enough to witness the wonders of this space; sprinkled with all the charms that you would expect from a fully functioning Victorian house of worship; amazing sound and amazing people amidst a Gothic maze of seats, stairwells and stages.

SoKo stumbled on stage right on cue, clearly spooked by the majestic setting and the 800+ pairs of eyeballs gazing as she set about her showcase. Jake and myself decided to sit as high in the buttresses as possible; we watched SoKo stammer, shuffle and skip around the stage at the start of her show (from the heavens) for the best part of five minutes, looking for a guitar to play. After accusing her band members of failing to tune any of the on-stage guitars properly, she set about her business.

There is no question that it took SoKo a song or two to find her feet - the start of her set was reminiscent of a talented, but equally nervous teenager at a high school talent show - but as soon as she did locate her toes, and equally, as soon as she had been joined on stage by her band members there was no stopping the magic.

Never have I been involved in such an emotional musical event. SoKo cried sporadcially throughout, not floods of tears and tissues, she held it together and didn't once break down completely, but she was close to choking on more than a handful of occasions. It was just insane how in tune her performance was with the way my life is unfolding at the minute. Never have I been to a show which summed up my state of being so accurately…

It was like she knew exactly what the fuck was going on in my mind and probably in the minds of the other 800+ mid-life crises crumbling around me in Union Chapel. 'Treat Your Woman Right' and 'I I've Been Alone To Long' are realistically as powerful a pair of songs that I will ever hear. Add a tearful singer, Gothic buttresses, ancient wooden pews, an 800+ crowd singing along to almost every line and (as I am sure you will agree) it sounds just about as special as it has ever been and will ever get.


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