LIVE REVIEW: Luke Sital-Singh at Deaf Institute, Manchester

Following the release last week of his third studio album A Golden State, singer-songwriter Luke Sital-Singh returns to Manchester’s Deaf Institute on the latest stretch of a ten-date U.K tour. This follows a packed year for Luke, who last year migrated from Bristol out to L.A. alongside his artist wife Hannah Cousins, who’s stunning work adorns the cover of the new album.

The evening’s support is ably provided by local alt-folk singer Lindsay Munroe, as well as Scottish singer Tommy Ashby, who’s call-and-response style gets the crowd suitably warmed up for Luke’s headline set.

Alone and unaccompanied, Luke holds the stage and the audience enraptured throughout, flitting back and forth between piano and both electric and acoustic guitars. This helps to break up the set and ensure the momentum never lags. Luke himself has a dry sense of humour that is peppered throughout the set, and helps lend some levity from the often downbeat material. “I’ve come here tonight to play you some songs… I assume that’s what you’re expecting,” he quips early on.

His voice is on top form tonight, each note crisp and clear. There’s always a fascinating range of textures in his voice, from an intimate, hushed whisper, to a soothing falsetto, to a raw, primal howl, which he can flip from one to the other at a moment’s notice.

The new material slots seamlessly into his back catalogue, which tonight also finds plenty of time for airings from his two other LPs, 2017’s Time Is A Riddle and his 2014 debut The Fire Inside. Many of the set’s highlights come from the latter, including ’21st Century Heartbeat,’ ‘Nothing Stays The Same,’ and a bewitching piano-led rendition of ‘Nearly Morning.’

Whilst there’s little in the new material to suggest the move to L.A. has altered his music sonically, lyrically the transition has helped to deepen and enrich his songwriting, broadening his outlook to consider subjects such as the prospect of parenthood on ‘Raise Well’ and his own mortality on ‘The Last Day.’ These numbers, as well as other new tracks ‘Los Angeles,’ ‘Lover’ and sublime set closer ‘Hearts Attach,’ all receive a rapturous response throughout the set. His songs always strive for a deeper meaning, and like his greatest influences such as Damien Rice, Joni Mitchell and Bruce Springsteen, they long to leave a stronger emotional resonance with the listener.

It’s a hushed, respectful audience in tonight, heartening to see in an era of smartphones blocking the view at most gigs nowadays (okay okay, grumble over). Luke ends his set with a simple thank you and a note that “if I never see you again… have a good life.” As is the overarching theme from the new album, his desire to embrace life and make the most of our time here stretches over onto the stage tonight. He performs without gimmicks, simply appearing as himself, unguarded. He never forces the performance, or pretends to be something or someone he’s not.

There’s a pervading feeling that Luke hasn’t quite reached the larger audiences he so clearly deserves. There’s currently an over abundance of singer songwriters in contemporary music, many of them playing it safe, peddling out the same worn-out cliches album after album. Luke is a rare authentic voice amongst all of these, one of a few singers whose work transcends its genre, adding a fresh vibrancy and a new lease of life into a time-old format. Here’s hoping A Golden State helps to further his place on the map, and opens up his reach to as many listeners as possible.

The new album, A Golden State is out now.

Luke Sital-Singh’s tour continues throughout April, calling at:

Thursday 11th – SWG3 Poetry Club, Glasgow
Friday 12th – The Tunnels, Aberdeen
Saturday 13th – The Caves, Edinburgh
Sunday 14th – The Cluny 2, Newcastle
Monday 15th – The Portland Arms, Cambridge
Wednesday 17th – The Bodega, Nottingham

Photo Credit: Hattie Ellis

Find Luke Sital-Singh on Facebook and Twitter.

Callum Mitchell-Simon
Writer and presenter based in Manchester. Contributor to several music sites, and also on air every Monday @9pm on Salford City Radio, playing a host of new and unsigned acts.

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