Aoife Nessa Frances @ Nice n’ Sleazy // 03.11.22

Following the release of her sophomore LP ‘Protector’ in late October, Dublin’s Aoife Nessa Frances has recently kicked off the album’s promotional tour of the UK, Europe and Northern Ireland. Glasgow is the third stop in a tour that spans the rest of this month, culminating with a couple of US dates in early December.

Support comes from Ora Cogan, an artist hailing from the Canadian West Coast. Cogan and her band opened the evening with some atmospheric ambient-rock, with flavourings of bossa nova and swing. The set was delivered with a great deal of comfortable confidence from all three band members and, this being my first time hearing of Ora Cogan, I’ll certainly be giving her recordings a listen following this.

Between songs Cogan remarks that the ambience in Sleazy’s this evening is like something out of Twin Peaks. It’s easy to see what she means. At this point in the night the crowd is sparse, the usual posters that adorn the walls of Sleazy’s downstairs have been stripped away, revealing the rather nice red wooden panelling that walls the venue. With a light machine fog permeating the room, and the headliner’s  3-piece setup of drums, guitar and keys arranged in a sort of pincer motion halfway into the stage, I have to say it’s the best I’ve seen the downstairs of Sleazy’s look.

Beginning with new album track ‘Soft Lines’, the pace and mood of the evening is established as they introduce us to a palette of lush fingerpicked guitars, warm and cinematic keys, and steady drum rhythms. The arrangement of each track makes for an immersive experience, and Aoife’s vocals, while velvety and consoling in quality, still hold a commanding presence. The live mix leaves a lot of room for each element to breathe, and the temptation to wash it all out in reverb is resisted in favour of letting textures shine through.

The remainder of the set for the most part maintains this energy level and mood, with Aofie moving to keys on occasion, notably for the bossa nova flavoured ‘Emptiness’ which features a tight groove and loungey feel.  A highlight for me was a track appearing in the first half of the set, ‘Blow Up’ has a way of pulling at the heartstrings with its romantic bassline and bittersweet arrangement.

I think I’d be amiss not to emphasise particular praise for the band’s resident multi-instrumentalist and producer Brendan Jenkinson. Jenkinson does some serious heavy-lifting throughout this band’s live show, as well as with their recordings. Throughout this set we see Jenkinson handling backing vocals, cinematic sequences of piano and pad synth, as well as clarinet on a few tracks. Listening to this performance with no visual you’d be easily convinced the band have a bass player on stage, but Jenkinson handles this duty single-handedly via the keys. A very accomplished musician and clearly a huge asset to Aoife’s music.

As a whole, despite not featuring many peaks and troughs in the dynamic of the set, Aoife and her band provided an atmospheric and musically accomplished journey that at times seemed to make the downstairs of Sleazy’s feel more akin to a smokey LA music club.

The ‘Protector’ tour continues throughout November and the band no doubt still has even more stride to hit.

‘Protector’ is out now on Partisan Records

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