LIVE REVIEW: Jess Kemp + David Gorman at Deaf Institute, Manchester

It takes a particular power for musicians to capture the mood outside on a sensuous summer evening and bring it in with them – but Jess Kemp and Dave Gorman, co-headlining Manchester’s Deaf Institute, with guest Thea Brooks, managed just that on Friday 18th May.

The night marked a celebration of single launches from both Manchester-based artists – David Gorman with ‘Chicago is Calling’ and Jess Kemp with two of her own: the powerful, personal ‘No Shouting’ and the catchy, deftly done ‘On the Ground.’

Opening the night was Thea Brooks, a singer-songwriter and musician seemingly well suited to the charming feel of the Deaf Institute. Her set had a distinct alternative country vibe combined with a catchy rock edge which resonated with the accumulating audience. Notably, Thea’s track ‘Need You There’ has already featured on a 2018 Breakthrough Bands playlist and this performance confirmed she is an artist to watch for sure – with a real acoustic skill of her own combined with soaring vocals.

Next was David Gorman, again an artist with his own acoustic flair, backed by keyboards and an appropriately atmospheric cello. I have to confess that I often crave the rhythm of a drumbeat, especially in a venue as large as the Deaf Institute (with a significantly standing audience), but Gorman seemed to manage the balance between beautiful, blissful music and bubbling rhythms in voice and instrumentation, all without the standard drum-kit. This arrangement allowed his emotive, evocative vocals to bring real reflective charge into the room – Gorman played a number from his 2017 EP ‘Another Midnight,’ as well as earlier tracks such as ‘A Thousand Miles A Day.’

However, a highlight had to be his brand-new single ‘Chicago is Calling’ – which was made additionally available to the audience on the night via an exclusive download card. A sign of a musician truly invested in connecting with his audience, and the track ‘Chicago is Calling’ underlined just that, with warm acoustic and powerful vocals of personal connection; inspired by Gorman’s own brother living in America, drawing on themes of distance and yet loyalty.

The new single from David Gorman is out now – available to purchase on Bandcamp here.

His set was followed by Jess Kemp – who I was particularly intrigued to see, having already watched her solo acoustic set at MancMade Festival at Manchester’s 53two earlier this year: massively moved by her raw vocal power and guitar-playing energy. Backed by a band for the launch of her two singles… this led to the question – would this detract from the original, iconic artist I had seen? Would this turn her tunes into something else? Absolutely not: Jess Kemp’s set and skill did not disappoint – her vocals volleying around the room, with that resonant, slightly nasal edge that lingers in the ears for ages. It is a style I appreciate very much and speaks volumes.

It was evident that Jess was extremely appreciative of performing at the Deaf Institute, and her show was filled with wit and warmth, making the mark not just of skilled musician, but a performer. Her punchy tracks were well co-ordinated with colourful lighting and a drumbeat this time, which drove the audience up into dancing. I’m already a keen fan of her 2017 ‘VondelPark’ and the new offerings did not disappoint – with ‘On the Ground’ an energy-fuelled single spinning over experiences of growing up, drinking and instability. Addressing lived experience with slick live music – no wonder she’s already left an impression at the likes of Kendal Calling, Bluedot and Blackthorn Music Festival.

The power of her performance really is testament to her seven years dedicated work on the Manchester music scene – and still only 23. One of the other highlights of the night indeed was a tune about being 23, before a brilliant, anthemic cover of Erasure’s ‘A Little Respect’ which had the crowd singing along. The sign of a diverse and driven musician with what it takes not just play to a room, but propel the mood to new heights.

Her second single of the evening to be launched was the equally anthemic ‘No Shouting,’ which covered emotive themes – arguments in relationships, hostility – but with passionate heat and a celebratory height which spoke of resolution. Her voice amplified by upbeat, resonant playing from all the band as well as her brilliant energy brought to driving acoustic – this was a double launch to be proud of.

Jess Kemp’s new double single, featuring ‘No Shouting’ and ‘On the Ground,’ is out now – available on iTunes here.

Photo Credit (Jess Kemp): North South Creative

Emily Oldfield
Lover of music, poetry and Manchester.

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