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.