Isaac Gracie // Leeds, Belgrave Music Hall // 05.10.17
Hot off the back of his highly acclaimed EP, Death Of You & I, shaggy-haired song-writer and former choir boy Isaac Gracie headed out on a UK tour. Armed with only a small band and a set of expertly crafted and emotional songs, clearly spurred on by his poet Mother and his distinctly classical musical upbringing. But his music is far from classical. Soulful, gritty, heartfelt, poetic and powerful are just a few adjectives I could use to describe this man’s music. So, it was fair to say, I was more than a little bit excited to see Gracie live in person finally.
The Belgrave Music Hall was completely new territory for me. Its smoky interior and intimate feel was superbly matched to Isaac’s sound and style. I entered to the earthy and delicate sound of WILDES (Emma Walker), a London-based singer-songwriter who I admit I hadn’t even thought to look up before the gig. However, she was immediately captivating. She had stunning control over her voice with complete ease. Her melodic moans were mesmerising, I would have been happy to just listen to her play guitar and moan quietly over it for half an hour. But don’t let that make you think I am trying to take anything away from her song-writing. She belted out deliciously crafted love songs whilst playing guitar and piano with heartfelt youthful dexterity. It was a much-welcome surprise; she has certainly gained another fan in me.
Gracie strode on, followed closely by his small accompanying band who took their places behind the drums and bass respectively. Gracie isn’t completely accustomed to playing alongside a band, having previously stuck to performing solo, but some of the songs from his most recent EP definitely required it. However, you just wouldn’t have none, the performance was seamless, the timing was excellent and they seemed to bounce of each-other. The destructive native of the ensemble was particularly evident in the title track from his EP, The Death Of You & I. It begins with these sleek western chords which sit alongside a very complex percussive pattern before breaking into a rousing chorus which sees Gracie break away from his generally calm and quiet demeanour. Forgive me for going on a slight tangent here, but the drummer deserves particular mention, his mastering of polyrhythmic beats in this track was immense and I was briefly transfixed by him, before being dragged back in to Gracie’s aggressive chorus.
Finding time for a reflective, stripped back interlude, which saw him take centre-stage with just himself and his acoustic guitar, was a nice touch from Gracie. His genuine and emotive performance was more evident here while he navigated his guitar like a true professional. Tracks ‘Burn My Clothes, Bury My Crown’ and ‘Darkness of the Day’ were particularly notable from this section. ‘Silhouettes of You’ was another particular highlight which seemed to bring out the karaoke skills in abundance. Its serene beginnings slowly built into a compelling crescendo which sees Gracie’s eloquent melodies sit over accompanying haunting harmonies.
Gracie’s final offering was a track from his very first EP, Songs From My Bedroom, a track called ’Terrified’, whose original recorded version was a stripped back and grainy fair. But Gracie opted for a refreshing take on it, roping in his band to push an already fantastic track into new stratospheres. From what was a bare and sincere track, suddenly became powerful and triumphant, whilst still retaining its original nature. Perhaps this is reflecting Isaac’s growing confidence. As always with gigs, this wasn’t the end, he returned to the stage, once again alone. He then proceeded to blow us away with two more tracks, ‘Hollow Crown’ and his debut single ‘Last Words’, a song which helped propel him to fame. ‘Last Words’ is most definitely a fan favourite, which was as clear as day as the crowd enthusiastically chanted every word along with him. It was a beautiful and fitting end to the night, as they were quite literally his “Last Words”.
All in all, Gracie certainly more than lived up to expectations. It’s very rare that a musician stirs such emotion in me and this is very much a credit to him. His songs are alluring, honest and impassioned. The musicality of him and his band was simply stunning and I encourage anyone to get down and see him. Thank you Mr. Isaac.