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Mara Simpson shows us that music is at its best when it is stripped right back and given space to breath

St Pancras Old Church can only be described as a gem.  The interior feels cosy, and the lighting is designed to be a dusky DIY affair; the whole atmosphere feels both romantic and relaxed. The 18th Century church near the Kings Cross Station is a wonderful example of a building built for intimate performances which bleed beautiful, floating vocals and warm guitar sounds. This was to be an exciting show for Mara Simpson, a singer-songwriter from Brighton. Her new album, ‘Our Good Sides’, she professed, was to be released the next day and she was “fucking shitting herself”. But before she launched into her set, the evening was kicked off by Jesse Sheehan, armed with an acoustic guitar and a piano.

He kicked off his very moving set with a set which celebrated love, life and letting go of unimportant things.  He was joined on stage by two guest vocalists who accompanied his vocals perfectly. Together, they sounded like a full choir in the expansive hall. As mentioned before, the acoustic loveliness of the space played a huge part it making both Sheenan and Mara’s vocals absolutely glitter and swell. Sheenan was humble and thanked the audience graciously for being so still and listening so intently.

It became apparent very quickly that the entirely seated crowd was made up of a lot of Mara’s relatives. It was a first for GIGsoup, to watch a performance with the acts extended family there. Truly, this made Mara’s entrance to the stage an act of great significance. She was accompanied by her four-piece banking band and got the set going with ‘Keep Holding On’ which provided a bluesy flavour to the evening. The band was tight, and Simpson’s singing feelings of a kind of ‘old west’ nostalgia which fitted oddly well in the setting. Half way through the set, Mara was joined on stage by Courtney Simpson who provided backing vocals for ‘Silent Woman’ and after few tracks, the initial nervousness began to melt away, and Simpson’s chatter with the audience began to feel more relaxed. ‘Whiskey’ was another highlight of her set, “because sometimes, the lyrics are from the inner crevices of your heart, but sometimes you also just want some whiskey. Her set continued into the late darkening evening, with smatterings of an electric organ, which was allowed to really shine in the echoing hall.

The set inevitably flew by, and Mara treated the audience to a solo guitar performance at the very front of the stage. Truly, sometimes music is at its best when it is stripped right back and given space to breath. Simpson’s rustic vocals and her melodic guitar plucks lulled her impressive and expansive set to a close. Truly, it was lovely to hear such heartfealt music in such a beautiful setting.

This Mara Simpson article was written by Zoe Anderson, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo credit milleniumjim61

Mara Simpson - St Pancras Old Church, London (19/05/16) - LIVE REVIEW

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