There’s something about Luke Sital-Singh. At times he surrenders to an introspection that borders on fragility, so reminiscent of Neil Young’s heart-aching soul searching. At other times he cuts loose with a voice that slips through the octaves, slicing through the emotional strata with all of the braggadocio of say, Rufus Wainwright or Jeff Buckley. Of course, he is none of the above, but who he is remains caught in the paradox of an open book wrapped in a riddle, the potentate of pathos or the self effacing enigma casting zephyrs of confession to whichever winds will have them.
If this all sounds a bit light headed then you’ll perhaps excuse one who has fallen under Luke’s spell. It hasn’t taken much other than the new Tornados EP containing four songs that have got the cogs churning, while seeing him live at London’s Tabernacle only seems to underline the duality I’m wrestling with. Not that it’s a problem per se, as the gig also proves the instinct to attend should always outweigh the perceived hassle of the getting there.
It’s busy on arrival and the pre-warned early start will also lead to an early finish. Much as that is welcome, the late night’s tippy-typing soon sees off any advantage gained, in the pursuit of trying to accurately record what has just transpired, because much as Tornados is good, very good even, tonight’s show was something special.
Luke seems genuinely taken aback by the gathered crowd, which leads to a slightly nervous beginning. But if anything it galvanises him and he launches straight into I Am The Fire. There isn’t much banter between songs to start with and he even confesses to not having thought about what to say. With what proves a self deprecating smile he tells us that You Love, You Love is about his parents adding, “That’s really cool thing to write a song about.” None the less it’s thing of beauty.
He switches between electric and acoustic guitar through the set but as mentioned at the start, it’s his voice that really captures the audience. Joined by a drummer and guitarist Luke warns us that, “The songs with the band are no less miserable than the ones before, just louder.” Sure enough, his intricate wordplay continues to lay little traps that snare you into an emotional roller-coaster ride. A song I don’t recognise includes the lines, “I feel on my skin all the hours we put in,” before unleashing the passionate rhapsody of, “We’ll become the greatest love.”
He suddenly seems in his element and starts joking with the audience. Anouncing the new EP is just out, he asks for feedback. Some young lady uncharitably shouts, “It’s OK!” Luke’s response is more deadpan self deprecation as he replies, “Yeah that’s about right. It’s what I say about most of this stuff.” But still he thanks us for listening and not making a noise, before referring to his Glasgow gig a couple of night ago and a guy who clearly wasn’t quite so rapt, “Who assured me it was all just good fun.”
The first song from the new release is How To Lose Your Life. Intense as it is, Luke is warming to the task now, telling us he’s got “Sweaty eyes, which is far from ideal” He then launches into the story of the next song, which is apparently a love song inspired by a film about Killer Whales. It transpires that the object his affections turned out to be a male whale, so he quips, “It’s a gay bestiality thing and I don’t think there are enough of those in the world.”
Then he announces that, “We’re going to bring a few more musicians out to join us as we clearly haven’t got enough on stage.” He’s referring to the 20 strong London Contemporary Voices Choir. It’s from here on in that things take a turn for the truly spectacular. Honest Man is breath taking, but when Luke sits at the piano for Nearly Morning my emotions finally get the better of me. Thankfully the rousing Nothing Stays The Same tips the balance back the other way.
With an encore, taken solo, of Fail For You, the evening comes to an end. The young crowd murmur their way through the exits to find Luke already downstairs prepared to meet greet and sign at the merch table.
A press release that accompanied his CD through my letter box includes the quote from Luke, “Good music should lock your feet and jaw to the floor”. Those particular objectives have been achieved tonight in spectacular style. If you get the chance to see him, you know what to do.
Review by: Simon Holland
Nothing Stays the Same (Official Video)
09/11 Thekla – Bristol
Tornados is released 4th Nov via PLG UK Frontline