Live Review: Lewis Watson

Lewis Watson Live

Lewis Watson, Frank Hamilton and Shannon Saunders | O2 Academy, Oxford | 20 June 2013

[Review: Big Sair]

The show must go on …

Hot, Thursday and Oxford  … Lewis Watson’s fans had started queuing well before doors opened, and were clearly hyped before climbing the stairs to the unrelentingly hot and sticky room, which is the O2 Academy.  Accompanied by my very own 15-year old, together we spanned the parameters of Watson’s well-noted ‘pan generational’ appeal.  I was ready both to listen and provide paramedic assistance to the heaving crowd of teenaged (mainly) girls.

Pretty, Wiltshire-born songstress Shannon Saunders kicked off the evening.  Discovered on YouTube by the Disney Channel, studying subsequently at BIMM, her acoustic guitar and amazing vocals instantly silenced the room.  Unsurprising really – crisp, clear vocals, excellent guitar playing and a varied repertoire interspersed with originals like Atlas and new release Heart of Blue, as well as her current YouTube hit – a heart-stopping rendition of Frank Ocean’s Swim Good  – now at over 230,000 views.  Saunders is impressive in every way, and one to watch.


Next up, Frank Hamilton. Bursting onstage with a jangling and catchy ukulele tune, he is a cross between Billy Bragg and, well quite Frankly (sic) Jarvis Cocker (sorry Frank: it’s true), with a little Newton Faulkner without the dreads. Drawing the crowd (who by this time were practically catatonic with the overpowering heat) further in with his wit and skill, I could quite see how he didn’t enjoy the control of a major label – being too folky and gutsy for that ilk.  Anyone who can stick to a New Year’s resolution, moreover one encompassing writing, recording and performing 52 songs for a year has what it takes to succeed.   With songs from his You, Your Cat and Me EP and more recent selection from 52 songs (The Best of #OneSongaWeek), plus his audience participation cover of  Teenage Dirtbag, (… two tickets to Lewis Watson, baby…) he was the perfect aperitif for the main act.


By the time Lewis appeared onstage, and despite being supplied water by security, we were already one fainter down.  In all honesty, Watson could just have stood on stage and not sung a single lyric – his fan base knew every word and almost his every move (including his ‘bop’). Disarmingly humble, yet performing with maturity far ahead of his 21 years, he engaged with the fans like his life depended on it.  Backed by just a percussionist, and a bassist/keys man, he absolutely commanded the room. This was the performance of an artist whose path to the main stage has been long enough. We were treated to tunes from both his first EP (It’s Got Four Sad Songs On It BTW), second EP (Another Four Sad Songs) and about-to-be-released EP (Four More Songs). I’m thinking a move from the Four Songs prefix might be in order, just to spice things up to the same level as his songwriting!   Choose what you like from Sink or Swim, Into the Wild, Even If’, Little Darling, Into the Wild, and all the rest, Watson delivered in spades. Descending into the audience for a (literally) swirling rendition of the GuillemotsMade Up Love Song #43, the crowd was mousey quiet – we heard every bead of sweat drop, along with the emotion of every note in his voice.

Just post-gig, Watson tweeted that he was in fact ill and couldn’t come out to meet the fans, as he’d wanted to.  For me, he’d given his all – I’d never have guessed he was anything other than on top form.  Move over Sheeran; make way Mr Howard … the lost generation is close on your trail(s).

Here he is performing Calling live with the crowd at his Manchester gig…


[Image: (c) Musicscene .ie]

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