The Great Escape 2013: Ed Harcourt

edharcourt Ed Harcourt was not, actually, one of the artists I mentioned amongst the five to watch out for I sent to the Hype Machine when they asked, but by the time I actually went to Brighton he was certainly amongst the five artists I was most excited to see.

That fact that the gig took place at this church certainly helped matters, and with the interior lighting it was much more impressive on the inside than on the out, and a hell of a lot bigger too.

With Harcourt perched behind a grand piano, the image was impressive, even if the venue lent a rather disorientatingly heavy reverb to the vocals when they were at their loudest. Nevertheless, once I acclimatised my ears, the effect was gorgeous.

I was late getting there, arriving to a grand piano accompanied by a solo violin player who also provided occasional and lovely female vocal backing vocals. It was a beautiful combination. The violin player, who I think might have been Harcourt’s wife, actually, reappeared from time to time and each time the effect was gorgeous.

In fact, Harcourt’s ability to dramatically change the timbre of the performance was one of the highlights of the show. He played synth, acoustic guitar and piano, sometime with violin, sometimes with backing vocals and sometimes unaccompanied, and with each the feel of the songs was subtly varied, although each in its own way suited the charisma of the setting all the same.

Perhaps the moment which most encapsulated this for me was when, after a couple of songs of bold piano, violin and forceful vocals bouncing thickly around the church Harcourt unplugged everything and sang a song unamplified, to a rolling, gentle acoustic guitar refrain.  It was gorgeous, and the sudden change in the volume of the sound and the near-vanishing of the smothering waves of natural reverb brought a remarkable change in the feel of the performance. Suddenly, instead of being grand and impressive, it was fragile and lovely.

And pretty much the best gig of the weekend.

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