REVIEW: Florence Rawlings

As a born and bred, educated and musically trained Londoner, it was always likely that Florence Rawlings was going to play her first headline gig in the capital. She made a step up from top class support act to the performer the audience are turning out t

As a born and bred, educated and musically trained Londoner, it was always likely that Florence Rawlings was going to play her first headline gig in the capital.

She made a step up from top class support act to the performer the audience are turning out to see on a wet and chilly night.

A delighted throng at Bush Hall in Shepherd's Bush last Wednesday lapped up her take on classic soul.

Having performed before plenty of audiences that have never heard of her, less still know her music, it was an obvious delight to be playing to her own fans at last.


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Florence found herself warming up audiences for Sir Tom Jones last year.

It's an apprenticeship like that served by the woman feted as this year's hottest property, Ellie Goulding, of whom Florence is a fan.

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Goulding won fans and critics over spending all last year touring as a support for Little Boots.

But the joy Florence experienced was that she spent most of her time playing to attentive audiences in nearly full venues.

"I expected that I would often be performing to 100 people so it was really nice to have people enjoying themselves and not just get a reaction when you mention the headline act," she says.

The tour took her across Germany and up to Scandinavia - a first experience of life on the road.

Enjoying the sights wasn't always on the agenda though.

She says: "If you have a day off there is a chance, but sometimes you are so tired and just want to curl up on the bus and rest."

Even on this first trip where you might expect a certain loneliness to take hold she was always at ease.

"The band are great and when you're on a tour with someone as big as Tom Jones there's always someone to talk to."

Her childhood preference for jazz songs evolved into one for the soul she now performs.

It was jazz which she famously sang for Mike Batt when she turned up at his house, aged 13.

Her album, A Fool In Love, is a clear demonstration of that fact.

She actually comes over better as a live performer than in her studio work. Despite the bid to create a live sound on the album her voice is something to be 'seen' as well as heard.

The reordering of the album tracks, every one of which she performed in her set, was an essential part of the show's success.

Starting the disc with the relatively restrained Wouldn't Treat A Dog is no where near as powerful as her belting version of the title song, an Ike Turner classic that kicked off the gig.

The album opener slotted in seamlessly afterwards and in the set that followed the steamy Riverboat and the atmospheric Wolfman were highlights.

There was a chance to slot in a great version of Jamie Cullum's Nobody knows You When You're Down And Out, who figures on her list of heroes - yes, she's that young and yes, he's been around that long.

A new song Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl was warmly received and the closing trio of the moving Love Is Like Battlefield, a storming Hard To Get an the Chuck Berry cover Can't Catch Me.

The encore was a rousing version of The Mamas & Papas / The Shirelles hit Dedicated To The One I Love.

It offers an interesting study of her interests, loves and influences.

But who would she really like to have join her for a singalong?

Asked to give an invite list for her ultimate karaoke party she proffers Cullum, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Stevie Wonder, Beth Rowley, Louis Armstrong, Corrine Bailey Rae, Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Dave Matthews.

An interesting mix in her heart and soul.

tim.cole@archant.co.uk

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