Review: Charlene Soraia, Pleasance

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You might not know her name and it’s unlikely you’d pick her out in a line-up, but chances are you’ll recognise Charlene Soraia’s voice; her cover of The Calling’s Wherever You Will Go was huge in the latter half of 2011 after featuring in a Twinings advert.

****

It even made the top three in the UK singles chart, but anyone lured here purely on the basis of that one track is likely to be taken aback – she’s no one-trick, faux-folk floozy.

There’s an early indication that things aren’t going to be straightforward in the shape of support act Dan Shears, who delivers a delightfully sorrowful acoustic set, complete with angelic falsetto and a nice line in self-deprecating humour. Melancholic and vulnerable, with an uneasy, vaguely unsettling undercurrent, tracks like London By Lamplight and Better Men are reminiscent of Bends-era Radiohead.

Soraia’s opening tune, the trippy When We Were Five, has a distinctly Pink Floyd feel about it, although tonight she eschews the glass-shattering shriek that kicks off the album version.

The rest of her tunes, like Postcards From iO and Bike, continue in a similar fashion, blissfully soporific yet strangely disobedient, each refusing to follow the line of least resistance. That no doubt stems from her love of jazz and experimental psychedelia. Her mid-set (and occasionally mid-song) ramblings have a tendency to peter out mid-sentence, but it’s a trait that’s more endearing than frustrating.

She demonstrates impressive dexterity on the Gretsch she rebuilt herself; it’s difficult to know whether to watch intently or just close your eyes and listen. The BRIT Academy alumnus even produces a mandolin for Midsummer Moon In June, before swapping it for the lesser-spotted baritone guitar on the funky, upbeat Animal.

And of course, there’s the small matter of that song, tonight’s closer. Thankfully, she never strays into the MOR-territory of the ad, instead infusing the tune with much more soul and sass.