Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Luke Friend Gig Review - 23rd April

Luke Friend - Hole In My Heart Tour -
The Borderline

On Thursday 23rd April I was invited to interview Luke Friend at his headline show at The Borderline. As I approached the venue I was immediately met by a queue of excitable young girls pretending they weren’t at all cold in their mini denim shorts and teeny tiny crop tops. My interview slot was coming up fast and I decided to head straight to the front of the queue in the hope I’d be inside the venue pretty sharpish. At the front of the queue I was met by a Dad, his two daughters and a security guard. A heated discussion regarding the age of his daughters was being had. The Dad was clearly not impressed by this delay and was obviously taking ‘one for the team’ as he seemed more like a Spandeau Ballet fan than a Friendie!

I shuffled passed the heated discussion and managed to catch the eye of the lady on the door.
“Where’s your ticket?” she demanded.
“I don’t have one, I’m interviewing Luke in approximately 3.5 minutes!”

There was a sudden shriek from the girls behind me.
“OMG you’re interviewing Luke! You’re so lucky! OMG…”
The girls’ Dad and I locked eyes and he gave me the ‘this could be a long night…’ stare.

The venue was already pretty busy and as usual I headed straight for the toilet. This has become my pre-presenting ritual. I take a few moments to gather my thoughts, mentally prepare for the interview and have one last glance in the mirror before the camera starts rolling (shiny face + camera = not ideal). I shoved a bit of powder on my nose and off I headed to Luke’s dressing room.

This is the part when I admit I am a genuine Luke Friend fan. No need on this occasion to be scrabbling around for positive things to say whilst privately thinking ‘this music really isn’t my bag’. Truth is, I downloaded Luke’s single AND voted for him on the X Factor AND made my Mum vote for him AND re watched his X Factor performances on loop every weekend AND I know all the words to his single. Yup.

As I walked into his dressing room I was immediately hit by the yummy smell of a freshly consumed take-away dinner. Luke was sitting on a leather sofa in front of a coffee table and I mentally told myself ‘do a good interview and don’t blurt out random stuff’…

“Oh hey Luke!! Did you have a nice Chinese? I smell NOODLES!”

In hindsight not the coolest of things to say (especially when it was actually Mexican) but let’s not get trivial! I perched on the sofa next to Luke and as the camera was getting set up, him and I chatted all things music and fashion. Comparing outfits and discussing the trend of ripped jeans made it pretty clear I was going to have no trouble getting great content. Luke was just as lovely as I had hoped.

The camera started rolling and we were straight into the nitty gritty of the interview. I have interviewed various artists from the X Factor and The Voice and I have always felt their best content stemmed from the talent show from which they came. Not for Luke. I deliberately didn’t want to talk too much about the X Factor, I was far more interested in his career as a credible singer songwriter.

We discussed the success of his debut single Hole In My Heart and how it became a UK top 40 single with very little TV or radio support, a huge testament to his craft and loyal fan base.  We also discussed Red Triangle, the talented duo that produced his single. I’ve been lucky enough to work with them too so it was great to be able to share stories of becoming all creative in their cosy studio based in the New Forest, or the ‘middle of nowhere’ as Luke described it!

After the X Factor Luke received an incredible amount of Industry interest from both Labels and Management. I was keen to discover the reasons behind his signing with RCA (Sony Music) and representation by prestigious management Crown. Many artists sign to the first record label and management company that show an interest, something very common for artists post X Factor and this is certainly not the case for Luke.

“I’d prefer to manage myself than be represented by the wrong people.”  

After the success of Hole In My Heart and his first sold out headline tour, it’s clear he has already made some great decisions.

Luke has a minefield of skills from catchy melodies, excellent guitar playing and thought provoking lyrics. It’s clear he has a music savvy head on his shoulders, ensuring longevity in an industry famous for breeding a sea of one hit wonders, (another post X Factor curse which certainly won’t apply here).

As Luke continued to chat away my eyes met his manager Martin. Aww Martin showed me the peace sign, bit random but maybe he’s just enjoying the interview?  I smiled back.

Nope. It was actually my two-minute warning. Bugger...

As I wrapped up the interview and thanked Luke for a great chat there were only a few seconds to spare for a quick selfie. My pictures turned out fuzzy and of course my face was shiny (thanks powder for letting me down…). I gave Luke a quick hug and off he went to the stage.

Good luck Luke and Peace Out Martin.

Wanna know what I thought of the gig? Keep scolling...

Standing at the back of an intimate venue is often deemed to be the worst place to be. You can’t see much and you inevitably end up standing behind the 6 foot 5 man with an afro the size of a beach ball. Luckily I meandered my body around the crowd and stood next to the merchandise stall with a pretty good view of the stage. Being so far back gave me a great insight to the crowd. I was just as interested in watching their reaction as I was watching Luke. I’ll say more about them later!

Luke bounced onto the stage straight into an original up-tempo number Take On The World. Within the first minute of the song he launched into an incredibly catchy chorus, my feet were tapping and I could see an array of heads nodding in front of me. I immediately thought this was a great opening song for tonight’s show.
Some music junkies love a song that goes against all standard songwriting formation, quirky hooks with no real difference between a verse and a chorus, (which just seems like one blob of music to me) ‘blob’ clearly being a very technical word! In my opinion nothing beats a great pop song where I can clearly locate the verse, pre chorus and chorus. It follows a structure that has seen great success in the pop world and it’s these songs that after hearing just once you’ve got the melody looping round your head all day and you’re longing to hear it on the radio in the future. These are the songs Luke writes. Not the type of songwriting where the artist subtly makes out they wrote the song when in fact you personally know the published songwriter that wrote it and you conclude the artist is a big fat fibber.

After showcasing some excellent original material his trusty sidekicks (Mr keyboard and Mr drums) left the stage for Luke to stand solo. Many artists look lost without their band behind them and ‘rabbit caught in headlights’ often springs to mind. Not this time! Luke swapped his electric guitar for his acoustic and serenaded the crowd with a mash up of contemporary songs from the current chart. The crowd started singing along to ‘Four Five Seconds’ by Rihanna and I loved hearing Luke put his own unique stamp on some very famous songs.
I’m a huge fan of Radio One’s Live Lounge and could certainly envisage Luke smashing a Live Lounge cover in the future. Covers in a set list are often used to reignite the crowds attention and participation. There is no doubt the crowd adored Luke’s covers but he had them in the palm of his hand throughout the entire gig regardless of what he sang. One or two covers sprinkled throughout the entire performance would serve a purpose and show off his artistic interpretation, but in my opinion Luke’s original material is so strong and well received, covers aren’t as crucial to him as they are to other artists. Big compliment right there.

The highlight of the gig for me was when Luke sang Medicine. During the interview he warned me about an emotional part of the set where he would pour his heart into a song he wrote about his Grandad passing away. Even with a pre warning like that I still wasn’t expecting my reaction. My lip started trembling and something got ‘stuck in my eye’. The crowd was behind him every step of the way as the lyrics created a ripple of emotion throughout the venue. Not only were the lyrics to Medicine impressive the chorus really showed off his vocal ability. The range in which Luke could push his powerful chest voice was very impressive.

“I’ll make you better soon 
If love was medicine...”

Luke bounced back by performing another toe tapping original song and I took this opportunity to blot my teary face with a tissue and focus on the crowd. Although his fan base are primarily young girls they seemed different to other young girl fan bases I have seen before. In the past I have seen young girls watch their favourite artist/band and during an unfamiliar song they’d busy themselves with selfies, whisper to one another, tweet, run to the toilet, scream ridiculously cringe comments out to the stage and fill in the time until their favourite top 40 single was performed. This crowd were completely different and totally the opposite of my first impressions when I was outside the venue before the show started.
Luke’s fan base listened to every song, focused on him throughout the entire show and engaged with every lyric. Yes they adored him, screamed at him and made banners for him but I just wasn’t finding them remotely ‘cringe’. In my opinion this is another great testament to his artistry. His fans loved the stories he was telling, they weren’t just interested in kissing his poster on their bedroom wall - although I’m sure there was some of that going on too!

Luke closed the show with Hole In My Heart of course! Every lyric was sung back to him and it was clear why this single was such a success.

As the final cheer for Luke roared through the venue my eyes met that Dad! You know, the Spandeu Ballet fan that clearly didn’t want to be there! To my satisfaction he had ventured from the back of the venue to join the crowd. His daughters weren’t in sight as I have no doubt they pushed their way to the front of the stage AND standing by your Dad is totally not remotely cool. I watched him applaud Luke with a huge grin on his face, and he cheered that type of cheer where your hands clap ABOVE your head,(big deal). Looks like he experienced a night of having “low expectations and very pleasant surprises!”

As the venue lights turned on and a stampede of bright red faces headed in my direction towards the merchandise stall, I went in the opposite direction for fear of getting squashed.
On my way to the door I stopped and chatted to a few familiar faces. I thanked Luke’s manager Martin and before I knew it I was back in the dressing room congratulating Luke on an outstanding show after he humbly asked me if I had enjoyed it!

Before I end this blog post I’d like to make the point that I am incredibly fussy when it comes to music. For every handful of artists I truly get excited about there are hundreds where I think, “How have you made it?” Not ever in a horrible way but I guess I know what I like!

I truly think Luke has a long career ahead of him in the music industry and I’m looking forward to more people hearing about Luke Friend the recording artist and not just ‘the boy with dreadlocks from the X Factor.’

Photo credit - Irena Dragic
Interview coming soon - Pop Scoop

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