Mollie Marriott @The Half Moon 23/02/15
As ways to start the night go, having a chinwag with Joe Brown in the toilets at The Half Moon is a pretty good, if slightly surreal, one. So what’s he doing there on a Monday night? Perfectly obvious really; both Mollie Marriott and her support act Mo Evans are family and Joe’s there to support them. And he’s not the only one. Judie Tzuke (one of Mollie’s writing partners) has shown up as well. There’s a bit of a buzz around this show because it’s the debut for Mollie’s full band, and most of the audience is anticipating some new material as well.
But before we get to that, there’s a short set from Mollie’s nephew, Mo Evans, who’s a singer-songwriter in the confessional mould. Armed with only an acoustic guitar, a capo and some interesting tunings, he manages to grab the audience from the start. It’s a difficult job at the best of times, particularly when your songs don’t have too many happy moments, but they’re a pretty good crowd and he gets them onside. There’s a particularly nice moment at the end of the set when his guitar amp gives up and he reacts by jumping down from the stage and gathering the audience around him to finish the set completely unplugged.
Mollie’s been doing acoustic gigs and radio appearances recently with Johnson-Jay Medwik-Daley (guitar and backing vocals) and Izzy Chase-Phillmore (backing vocals) and this line-up is augmented for the album material by Sam Tanner, Alex Reeves and Henrik Irgens (keyboards, drums and bass). There’s an assurance about the band’s performance that only comes from putting in the hours in rehearsal; there should be some nerves showing on the first outing with new material but they’re well hidden. The band are all great individual musicians but this is about working together to showcase the songs and Mollie’s voice. Oh yes, that voice; it’s powerful and pure and strong (which you would expect from someone who’s worked extensively as a backing singer) but when she pushes it towards the limit, there’s a raw emotional edge there that you only find in the truly great blues and soul singers. On top of all that, she’s a genuinely engaging stage personality who has a great rapport with her band and the audience.
The set features the two singles “Ship of Fools” and “Transformer”, the Alanis Morissette cover “Mary Jane” and a selection of new material from the album, including “Give Me a Reason” which features some lovely harmonies from Izzy and Johnson-Jay; the audience loves it. There’s a huge amount of love and mutual respect on stage but also between the band and the audience, which all helps to create a perfect live music experience. The Half Moon isn’t full by any means, but anyone who was there will be spreading the word.
So, is 2015 the breakthrough year for Mollie Marriott? It certainly looks like this is the right time for the big push; she’s been around the music business for a few years now and she’s highly respected as a backing vocalist, but she now has an album’s worth of songs, a tremendous band behind her, a label and a good support team. And, in case I hadn’t mentioned this already, a phenomenal voice. “Transformer” is already generating media attention and picking up local radio playlistings, and with the album coming out later this year, this just might be Mollie’s time; I really hope so.