John Metcalfe

John Metcalfe: Just let go

John Metcalfe | Elgar Room | 29 May 2016

Within the space of 30 minutes, John Metcalfe has strapped on an electric guitar, hunched over a bank of keyboards, sat at a red grand piano (which he describes as “a bit Richard Clayderman”), and eked all the emotion from a viola. And that’s just the opening piece of a sublime 90-minute performance that draws heavily from the musician’s equally inspired 2015 album, ‘The Appearance of Colour’.

Helping to recreate – and occasionally reinterpret – his exquisite compositions are drummer Daisy Palmer (just as comfortable pounding out a giant rock beat as a jazz shuffle or ‘80s synth rhythm), swinging double bassist Ali Friend (master of finger picking and the bow alike), and ethereal singer Rosie Doonan (equally adept at inhabiting lyrics as expressing vocal harmonies).

But this is truly Metcalfe’s show. A charming on-stage presence – he even invites the entire audience to after-show drinks at a pub down the road – the multi-instrumentalist seems equally nonplussed by the demands of the shape-shifting music. While the tender ‘Plain to See’ evokes images of a smoky jazz club, a reimagination of ‘Kite’ – led by a delicate piano melody and some skittish percussion that builds up to a full-blown groovefest – could be featured on one of those ‘Ibiza: Chill’ collections – if the compilers had any taste.

Similarly, while they’re both about trees, the positively sunny, foot-tapping ‘Gold Green’ is led by Metcalfe’s electric guitar, while the hyperkinetic ‘Sycamore’ is built around an incessant drum ‘n bass beat and his virtuoso viola playing. ‘Flood, Tide’ in turn is ominously beautiful, ‘Just Let Go’ could perhaps be described as ambient classical, the immaculately arranged ‘The Appearance of Colour’ is 15 minutes of evolving moods and flavours including a brief high-energy electro-jazz workout, and ‘Wrapped’, with Doonan front and centre, is how Portishead might sound if they followed the likes of Blur and Coldplay in recruiting Metcalfe as an arranger. Like everything else performed tonight, it’s quite simply magical.

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