Cambridge can sometimes have a reputation for quiet audiences, with acts passing through tending to nervously thank attendees for being so attentive and unobtrusive. So for a church gig, with an artist acclaimed for his serenity (and whose forthcoming album is even titled ‘Sweet Sweet Silent’), this was a surprisingly noisy affair.
James Page was practically playing to his hometown, admitting onstage that it’s actually scarier to play to relatives and friends than strangers. He needn’t have been nervous though as praising support from the familial collective was rapturous from the offset. Applauses and piercing whistles and woops detonated with a force that could have impacted a stadium.
For the most part the general volume was inspiriting, but considering the setting it actually made for quite the mood killer at times. The intimate venue seemed only to heighten crowd behaviour making it unfortunately irksome. For example, when someone’s hamster ringtone went off during an especially nice piano number (which the offender lackadaisically and unapologetically took his time to cull) it really stole the ambience away. Elsewhere, beer cans were loudly being cracked open at regular intervals. Fair enough to enjoy a drink with the show of course, but amplified by the contrast of the venue it sometimes felt more like a house party than a peaceful performance.
Alas, it’s probably unfair to presume that that’s how this show should have been. It was after all a homecoming, so although some members of the crowd carried with them a certain egregiousness, it was the tolerable type which comes along with any family. Plus, Page responded to his fans with genuine appreciation, laughing along with any interruptions and even asking for a simultaneous cracking of beers. As said, the venue was probably to blame for intensifying any annoyances, since the audience did in fact propel the gig’s finer moments. More than agreeable song requests were made and obliged to, such as ‘Family Tree’ and ‘Miracle’. There were also warming singalongs to favourites from his debut album, such as ‘Better Man Than He’.
The music of Sivu was thankfully mighty redeeming. His new offerings such as ‘Childhood House’, ‘Lonesome’, and especially ‘Trickle’, were gratifyingly emotive. His guitar was strummed, trembled and bent skilfully, and his piano plinked goosebumps onto skin. His powerful voice with its quivering style was pretty astonishing, and although there was no string quartet accompaniment, you could almost imagine there was because it just sounded so full. What Page described as a love song towards the end was an indication to the talent of his songwriting. If his previous songs then weren’t amorous serenades, they were as romantically poetic as if they were.
Words from Ellie Clarke