Arriving about twenty minutes after doors opened in the foolish assumption that in EVAC it just never fills up quickly, I made my way through the crowds of people, chatter and drinks in growing disbelief. Despite being stuck in an awkward side position in the second row, the fact that the audience actually seemed keen enough to turn up early gave me the hope that they might prove my EVAC-stereotype of largely inanimate onlookers wrong.
Toronto two-piece Madison Violet opened the night with their raw, husky voices, and a pleasant but average set, at times sounding like a female version of the headliner, or getting close to drifting off into the overcrowded synth waters of The xx inspired folk pop. They nonetheless excellently braved a broken guitar cable even without much help from the surprisingly inactive tech guys and concluded the forcibly short gig with the as of yet just provisory titled song ‘Rain’ off their newest album, which had all the energy and catch the rest of their set seemed to be lacking. If that last song is anything to go by, then their new album shows quite some potential, and they might be someone to look out for when they start their UK headline tour next month (sadly leaving out the North West).
Having made myself familiar with Jack’s back catalogue in advance, I admit I went into this gig expecting to leave pleased, with a few personal highlights, but no more. Jack started the set telling us how much he loved us and how overwhelmed he was, and whilst I’m not a fan of these premature declarations of love, he seemed to really mean it, and the smile that stayed on his face for the remainder of the night was proof of that.
Opening with the newest single ‘Written in Scars’ and following it up with songs like ‘Vagabond’, ‘Last Call’ and ‘Take me Home’, he should have gotten the audience going straightaway; however he was the only one to break a sweat, along with a couple of people mainly from ‘that corner there having a good time’. Failing to animate the ‘civilised corner’ (everyone else), he nonetheless carried on with an extraordinarily energetic set, giving even a dark acoustic song like ‘Soldier’s Eyes’ a remarkably powerful dimension.
Talking about the gig now, it would be a lot easier could I just single out a few highlights. But the fact that from start to finish Jack was pretty much soaked in sweat is evidence enough of the energy and obvious passion he put into every single song. None of them gave my feet a second of rest, and towards the end of the set an increasing number of people seemed to defrost in the radiant presence of that jumpin’ Jack with the acoustic guitar and the big smile on his face. Indeed, after he closed with a raucous rendition of ‘Knock Knock’, everyone seemed to have realised that they didn’t want him to leave just yet. Bringing in a contrabass for ‘The Proposal’ and throwing every last bit of energy he had left into ‘Come Shine a Light’, he topped off the set with an encore that still left us yearning for more