Fans of all ages gathered at Shepherd’s Bush Empire to see Gavin James, the Irish singer-songwriter with a lot of heart and humour. It has been a hugely successful year for Gavin, as he has made waves in the USA, performing on a number of late night shows. His single ‘Bitter Pill’ was a BBC Radio 1 ‘Track of the Day’ and the Mark McCabe remix of ‘Nervous’ is a regular on the Heart airwaves.
Before the main event, Gavin brought along some very talented friends to entertain the growing audience.
Craig Gallagher opened the night, before later joining Gavin on stage for his encore. A funny and confident singer-songwriter from Dublin, he began with the beautiful melody and sentimental lyrics of ‘Home’. Building a rapport with the audience, he continued his set with ‘Back to the Start,’ a song about his first love when he was 14. This was followed by ‘Stay’ which he said may be the next song he releases, showing off how well his voice carries in a spacious arena. After covering Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love,’ he treated us to a new song, ‘Take Me Love’: “This is a new song” he says, “Well they’re all new songs to you cause you haven’t got a fucking clue who I am.” Not for the first time during his set, the audience erupted with laughter.
Craig’s set was hugely entertaining and so fitting as a support for Gavin James. This made Freya Ridings‘ performance all the more challenging for her. She was meant to play before Craig, but for whatever reason, she followed him. Her voice was less rock ‘n’ roll and more operatic, similar to London Grammar’s Hannah Reid. “I didn’t know I would be doing this until a couple of days ago” Freya revealed. However, she conquered her initial nervousness and delivered her material well. The deep and affecting vocal of ‘Home’ as she played lush piano chords was a nice introduction. She hasn’t quite developed a stage persona that could match the Irish contingent, but she let her music do the talking. ‘Lost Without You’ was a highlight, which she described as her musical version of the famous Brief Encounter scene.
It’s a shame that Craig and Freya performed in the wrong order. This slightly scuppered the natural build-up to Gavin’s set. But it was a minor setback.
Gavin James arrived on time, albeit a little tentative, explaining early in his set that he had a nightmare week with his voice. He had to cancel his Reading show and he certainly didn’t hit the famous high notes of his ethereal range as he has done in the past. This was particularly noticeable during the big moments of ’22’. He seemed a little reluctant, but he was by no means disappointing.
He opened with ‘Til the Sun Comes Up’ before introducing his band, something which is new to a live Gavin James show, and performed a rousing version of his first single ‘Remember Me’. As was expected with a predominantly Irish crowd, Gavin had great craic with the audience, before a hugely energetic performance of ‘Coming Home’.
In such a large venue, I was a little concerned when Gavin decided to unplug his guitar, step away from the mic, and come to the front of the stage for the performance of his cover of ‘You Don’t Know Me’. It was an incredible moment; his voice and guitar carried around the entire venue. Gavin had this remarkable ability to pull every person from the front to the back of the top tier and place them right on the floor in front of him. He turned the Shepherd’s Bush Empire into a small, intimate venue, which is a truly remarkable feat.
He ended his pre-encore set with powerful and energetic renditions of ‘Say Hello’ and ‘Two Hearts’. These songs sandwiched a comedic impression of Louis Armstrong’s ‘Wonderful World,’ getting the audience to participate with their finest impressions as well. It summed up what Gavin is all about. His fans adore his music and his remarkable voice, but his personality resonates too. It really makes for an assured live performance, even if he is feeling a little under the weather.
Closing the night with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’, he seemed to be more confident that his voice would hold, and he really went for it. A fitting end to a well thought-out set. The new dimension of the live band lifted songs which had only previously been released and performed as solo tracks.
A key highlight of his set was new song, ‘Heart’s on Fire’, which has all the ingredients for a pop hit. A catchy riff and a mainstream aura, this song could see Gavin fully introduced to the limelight in Britain. Watch this space; he keeps on growing.
By Dean Bennell
Craig Gallagher, a great warm up for Gavin
Freya Riding’s set short and sweet
A night of good music and humour
Gavin’s voice still impressive after mid-week problems
His new song has the potential to be a big hit
Connect with the artists