With its high ceilings, art deco interior and grandesque air, the historic venue of Islington Assembly Hall seems the perfect setting to hear the dulcet tones of geologist stroke singer-songwriter Laura Veirs. Built in the ’30s, the stunning Assembly Hall – located on my favourite street in the heart of Islington – would host variety shows and community events until the 1980s when it was closed to the public and simply used for storage for the Town Hall next door. Luckily, it re-opened in 2010 and – having been beautifully refurbished, yet retaining its quintessentially English original features – now pays host to many big names as well as supporting new up and coming artists.
The evening in general has a very lovely, laid-back vibe thanks to Veirs’ down to earth nature and intimate interactions with the crowd (with many gushing references to her baby son, Oz) and – as the night goes on – I feel more and more like I really would like to be her best friend. And I’m clearly not alone – as two of her youngest fans (‘the dancing girls’) are invited on stage, they are giddy with excitement, clearly huge fans of Veirs as they bust their moves to their heart’s content alongside the band, singing along to each and every lyric. All pretty heart-warming (aside from my intense jealousy…)
Having just released her ninth album (‘Warp and Weft’) and had her second child, Veirs seems to have blossomed into motherhood with ease. Donning a leaf-green dress with a skirt reminiscent of those I remember wearing for ‘character’ lessons in Ballet, a girly alice-band and teacher-like spectacles, Laura oozes a modestly feminine, old-fashioned style but with a stern edge; she exudes a confidence and honesty that come with age and experience, but retains a cheeky, wide eyed innocence that make it impossible not to fall in love with her.
Joined by her full band, Veirs and co. deliver hit after hit: with the sweeping strings of Alex Guy (who opened the night with her own project ‘Led To Sea’), a multi-tasking drummer and a jolly bassist who was apparently responsible for their styling (“stitching’s the fun part!”), the band fit perfectly alongside their front lady, and all have a wonderfully evident rapport with one another that shines through in their witty banter and flawless musical harmonies. With personal highlights such as ‘I Can See Your Tracks’, ‘July Flame’ and ‘Sun Song’, the set ranges from heartfelt, emotive ballads and spine-tingling, atmospheric meditations on nature (the geologist in her often being reflected in Veirs’ lyrics) to feisty, feedback-filled numbers. And, although she didn’t play ‘Cast A Hook In Me’, Veirs fails to disappoint; her sweet vocals and folk inspired melodies being perfectly suited to the wonderful acoustics of this historic venue. However, whilst most of Veirs’ material remains rooted in American folk and country, we do catch glimpses of her punk background on occasion as she head bangs along to some of the rockier tracks, and her recent single ‘America’ vehemently protests against her homeland’s gun culture.
In conclusion: beautiful, heart-felt music, witty chit-chat, dancing girls and a timelessly iconic venue – I think it’s fair to say, a perfectly lovely night had by all.
And there are lots more pretty great acts paying a visit to Islington Assembly Hall in the near future:
T’pau – Tonight!
Mark Lanegan – 29th November (Wish i had tickets…)
Dutch Uncles – 5th December
Tim Burgess – 16th December