By Oscar Ross, Music Editor
Having stepped out of the aggressive Bristol rain and somehow got my hands on a photo pass at SWX, I spent the night losing myself in both the newly renovated venue and the mesmerising sets from both Kwanku Asante and one of my favourite current artists, Pip Millett.
Disclaimer: This was the first time I had ever shot live music. I had (and still) have near to no clue what I was doing, and as such managed to run out of battery just as Millett’s set started. So here is some very basic advice for any budding journalists wanting to try their hand at photography (which was me last week): Charge your camera on the day of the gig. Seems simple, it is simple. I just also happen to be simple as well, so I forgot. Don’t forget.
Flaunting smoothly crooned ballads as well as funky r&b grooves, Kwaku Asante owned the stage with just himself and his guitarist. Stripping back his songs to guitar and vocals (and his shirt mid-set, to the screams of much of the audience), Asante still brought the full energy and emotion of his tracks, especially those of his new E.P Wanderlust, holding the attention of the already packed SWX with the depth and quality of his voice.
The low-key feel of the set brought forward the vibrancy and warmth of Asante’s voice and the light-hearted dynamic between the singer and his guitarist, who held the set together with chorus and reverb-washed strums as well as bassy, infectiously funky grooves and hooks. All I’m saying is, if this was Asante’s set without a band, you better be looking out for his headline shows because you can be sure I will.
Following the solid minute wall-shaking screams that erupted before and after she walked on stage, Millett stood grinning and laughing almost taken aback at the energy level of her crowd.
The blaring sample of ‘Hard Life’ rose out of the shouts. If you thought this song hit hard in your headphones, you have no idea how much higher it could go. Each beat felt like a kick to the head whilst Millett’s mesmerising voice echoed around your head.
The emotion of Millett’s voice has always resonated with me in her songs, but on that stage, mic in hand, Pip Millett was pure, unfiltered soul. The breaks and tears in her vocals cut straight through the crowd as she bent and lifted to the beat and the intensity of her own singing.
The swinging drums of ‘Heavenly Mother’ were met with a wall of shouts and an army of backing singers following Millett’s swaying conduction. On songs such as these Millett’s show lost none of the intimacy of her records but instead raises them to a higher, even groovier level.
As promised in her new debut album: When Everything is Better, I’ll Let You Know the night was filled with hard-hitting drums, funky bass and catchy guitar hooks, all laced together with Millett’s cashmere-smooth vocals. The racing ‘My Way’ flaunted Millett’s full swagger on stage, switching from singing to rap with finesse and flow. Millett’s powerful performance on ‘My Way’ ended up leaving SWX breath, with the singer chuckling into the mic saying: “I’m gonna chill out ever so slightly, that was a lot of energy for me”.
“I’m proud of myself to be able to be in a position to write this next song”
- Pip Millett
Speaking on her journey learning to heal and manage her depression, Millett opened herself to the crowd in her introduction to ‘Heal’. The crowd's cheers and applause to her comment that she’s doing a lot better in managing her depression highlighted the true effects of Millett’s music, that is, in being honest and open about her own struggles, Millett speaks to millions of people who might be suffering, recovering or learning to manage their issues.
I am a massive Otis Redding fan, as everyone should be, and as Pip Millett is. Now, I enjoyed Millett’s release of her cover of one of my favourite songs of all time, ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ but not as much as her original tunes, simply because the original recording by Reading is very special to me. However, I cannot express to you how brilliant this cover is live.
Millett is true to Redding’s original song while also staying true to herself and her own sound. The whole performance was fuelled by her obvious love for the original and her spin on it reflected the ways in which she enjoyed the song. Simply put, it was f*****g awesome.
“This one I recorded in my room at uni with a broken window”, Millett explained introducing ‘Deeper Dark’. This intimate song was met with near silence across SWX, save for Millett’s’ crowd of backup singers, hands and phones held high, singing their hearts out. This was the first Pip Millett tune I heard, and seeing her perform it live was as if I was hearing it for the first time. The wonder of Millet’s voice has never been clearer to me than in that moment, watching her duck and bend to the stage, stunned by the ebb and flow of her voice.
Bringing the energy back up with her upbeat banger ‘Slow’, Millett ended her set with her hit debut single ‘Make Me Cry’. Closing down the night with this originally low-key song, the live performance brought new power and depth to the song, with Millett’s amazing band staying on for another 16 bars just to keep jamming that infectious guitar hook.
Overall Pip millet faced the crowd with the charisma and swagger of a big name while also wearing her heart on her sleeve, funnelling all the melancholy and heartbreak of her songs into an emotive, effervescent live set.
Listen to Kwaku Asante and Pip Millett’s tunes here:
Photography by Oscar Ross
Have you been to SWX yet?