Rozi Plain - Brudenell Social Club Leeds, UK - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Rozi Plain - Brudenell Social Club Leeds, UK

by Andy Brown Rating:10 Release Date:2011-10-26

I first saw London’s Rozi Plain by accident, wondering into one of the many venues at this year’s Long Division Festival in Wakefield. Plain and her band created a breezy, deceptively smooth sound that put me under its subtle spell within the first song. I picked up the latest album, Friend and gradually become hooked.

Tonight Plain is playing in the smaller pool room of the Brudenell Social Club, with those old psychedelic dreamers Mercury Rev packing out the main room. Now, I’m sure the Rev were excellent but missing out on Rozi Plain playing such an intimate show would have been a terrible mistake.

To make the deal even sweeter, acoustic troubadour Steven James Adams opened proceedings with a set of country-tinged solo material. Now I’ll admit a bit of bias from the beginning as Adams is easily one of my favourite songwriters, having fronted the sorely missed Broken Family Band up until 2009. Adams has released some great material since but has seemingly gone even further under the radar since parting ways with his old band.

Wearing a Black Flag t-shirt and armed with an acoustic, the relaxed and self-effacing Adams looks incredibly comfortable on stage as he cracks jokes and delves into a set of new songs and old favourites.  We get the ever-beautiful ‘John Belushi’ sitting next to the pleasingly dramatic ‘Black Cloud’ that see’s Adams stretch his voice to a cracked, emotive yell.

Adams knows his way around a song and as I watch him play I realise that he pretty much uses the same four chords every time. It shows that great songwriting doesn’t rely on technical wizad-ary or needless showing-off. Towards the end of the set Adams unplugs his guitar and walks into the crowd (to be like a “god amongst the mortals” he jokes) and gets a bit of audience participation with some backing vocals supplied by the punters choir. Ending on a stripped-back version of ‘Injured Party’ Adams proves beyond doubt that he remains one of countries best kept, songwriting secrets.

It’s hard to put my finger on the exact point but fairly early on in Rozi Plain’s set I find myself utterly hypnotised. These are essentially pop-songs yet pop-songs that find their inspiration in everything from jazz, folk and art-rock. Rozi is an impressive guitarist and there’s a free-flowing, improv friendly undercurrent to the bands performance. The songs themselves are meditative and groove-led, containing a fair amount of intricate interplay for a sound that retains a simple, innocent quality.

The bands choice of covers is particularly interesting and there really can’t be too many groups comfortable with both the cosmically-inclined insanity of Sun Ra and folk legend Shirley Collins. Plain’s voice also serves as a key instrument in the band’s sound with her quiet but captivating vocals bringing the likes of Joanna Newsom to mind.

The songs are frequently relaxed yet remain quietly thrilling, occasionally bursting into an unexpectedly heart-racing crescendo. Take the gorgeous ‘Actually’ for instance, Plain’s soft vocals guiding us through like a friend before the band suddenly find themselves locked into a beautiful, transportative groove.

Decked out in a Fall t-shirt, the bands second guitarist adds some great touches throughout, hammering on his whammy-bar or adding atmospheric noise- they’ve clearly given him free reign to flesh the songs out with as much improv as possible. It’s a move that works well as the songs never feel static or over-rehearsed; instead they retain an organic, practice room feel that really connects. The band looks happy and content throughout, lost in the music and loving each moment. 

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