Standing alone, centre stage and with an acoustic guitar strapped to his person, solo troubadour Jo Rose couldn’t help but take a mid-set moment to marvel at the ornate refinery of the Royal Albert Hall. Remarking upon the comparison with the small local bars back in his hometown Manchester, he took turns to ask each section of the audience if they are alright.
This level of ease and assuredness was a marked contrast with his opening.
When he steps out for his support slot with First Aid Kit, the lights are low, smoke and the spotlight permeate his space. Initially, he prods the chords to ‘Balcony Doors’ (from his sumptuous debut release, Spurs – reviewed here) gingerly, and his vocal is laced with a noticeable degree of nerves.
This is a sensation that appears to dissipate as the set unfolds and the warmth of the reception greeting the conclusion to each song fills him with confidence.
Stripped of the additional instrumentation that adorns the recorded versions, Rose entertains those present with what he classes as ‘…sketches of what’s on the record’. These sketches lilt with a beguiling and hazy warmth. The songs evoke an intimacy. The reverent silence of the masses allow the nuances to be heard.
Despite the country intonations of the melodies and the chord sequences, the atmosphere offered by this set – in tone, style and stage set-up – is one that bears similarity to the famous Gaslight venue or the Cellar Door club. It feels as though you could even be sitting in on an outtake scene from the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis.
Finding time to provide an aching reading of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Bird On A Wire’, if there is a criticism to this performance, it is that Jo Rose doesn’t quite explore the full range of the dynamics that are at his mercy. He keeps things restrained at all times and perhaps a little too conservative.
Such quibbles are minor, however, when the songs are of the calibre as that deposited onto the ears of the attendees in this grand old space. Songs such as ‘Another Name For Mercy’ are potent in spite of their apparent calm.
Once Rose exits to make way for the headliners, the residual thoughts are telling. The novelty of venues of this stature may be something new to him, but he will have to get used to it as he grows into himself with the passing weeks, months and years. He’ll be back.
This is no bird on a wire. Catch him as he takes flight.