Club Uncut: Dawn Landes, Peter Von Poehl, Liz Green
First nights are never what they’re cracked up to be, right? You’re always worrying what’s going to go wrong, and if enough people will turn up – after all, it’s the night before Good Friday. We needn't have worried, though.
When we entered the Borderline last night, just off London’s Tottenham Court Road, there was already a healthy crowd waiting for Liz Green to kick off the inaugural Club Uncut. With her steady classical guitar playing at times conjuring up an Appalachian flavour, Green was free to weave tales with her warbling, unusual voice, reminiscent of late New York legend Karen Dalton.
The crowd were perhaps quite awestruck by the intimacy of Green’s performance, not least when she put down her guitar, stepped off the stage and walked around the venue, continuing a song a capella and flailing her arms like an extra from ‘The Wicker Man’. For her finale, she again untangled herself from her classical and microphone and disappeared up the stairs to the exit, singing as she went. Stealth may also be one of her talents, as we never saw her return.
Swede Peter Von Poehl’s performance was a distinct change from Liz Green’s. Where her songs are earthy, solid chunks of sound, Von Poehl’s creations are lighter, flightier and dreamier, owing more to textured musicians like Air, and the more plaintive chanson-laced pop songs of Francoise Hardy and Michel Polnareff. Performing on a variety of stringed instruments and backed by a drummer and organist, Von Poehl was captivating.
‘The Story Of The Impossible’ was performed solo, with the singer on acoustic guitar, while the title track of his debut album, ‘Going To Where The Tea-Trees Are’, was given a lusher treatment, complete with reverbed waves of organ and some kind of baritone ukulele. Even better was the metronomic, harmonica-led ‘Little Creatures’, which sounded nearly as complex as it does on record.
Hidden behind drapes of blonde hair and barely muttering a word between songs surely didn’t hinder the air of mystery about Von Poehl either. It was a pleasure to see him live, to see him finally put emotional meat on the slicker bones of his album.
By the time our headliner Dawn Landes took the stage, the Borderline was packed. Accompanied by a skilled but subtle drummer with a glorious mountain-man beard, Landes, whose stock has been rising in Americana and folk scenes over the last year, began with a haunting cover of Tom Waits’ death ballad ‘Green Grass’, then proceeded to turn her hand to her own material – aside from a sweet cover of Francoise Hardy’s ‘Tous Les Garconnes Et Les Filles’, that is.
Sporting a red woolly hat (has it really been that cold in London?) matching her bright red top, Landes cut a striking figure. Her voice is a lilting and mercurial one, strong and deeply professional, without being stilted or mannered. When she sang lines in rapid-fire succession she sounded like a grand old dame of country, while slowing her delivery brought her tone closer to Chan Marshall or Feist. The latter’s chirpier songs are a fitting reference point for Landes’ more energetic tracks, where she straps on an electric guitar and seemingly attempts to take on The Black Keys and The White Stripes at their own game with her stomping blues.
Her backwoods accompanist added backing vocals to the twinkling ‘Twilight’ when Landes returned to acoustic guitar, ending her set to great applause. A glamorous, but still edgy, talent – particularly live, where she really shines – Landes was a perfect end to the night.
So what of first night hiccups? Well, surprisingly, there weren’t any, with the Borderline packed to the rafters with appreciative fans looking for some Easter entertainment and three fantastic, very unique acts. Roll on next month.