Milly Hirst, Jessica Alice at The Plasterers, Norwich, 20 June 2013, review
What a treat this night was, hearing two of the sweetest voices in the city in the lovely surroundings of this intimate and traditional pub in Norwich. Playing in the corner, with a simple PA and acoustic guitar it was Jess who started the proceedings off tonight. A rare treat for those of us who have been seduced by her music as the last time I saw her was at the beginning of the year, also with Milly, at OST and I believe this was in fact her last live performance. Despite feeling a bit nervous she engaged well with the audience and was full of smiles and clearly enjoying herself, unsure whether to introduce herself as Jessica Alice, or Jess Wilson, she simply said “I’m Jess”. With a brand new acoustic Spanish guitar she has rediscovered her zest for playing and writing and this is really coming through strongly in her delivery. This is the fourth or fifth time I have heard Jess perform live and despite the long time since her last live performance I would say this was the best I have heard her. With her other half, sound guru Ian, tweaking the levels, and the warmth of sound afforded by the wooden floor and low ceiling, the acoustics were really lovely, heightening her voice and subtle guitar playing. It was a beautiful, albeit short set, and I am hoping to hear her again in the intimate setting of the Bicycle Shop on Monday supporting Liz Green, who I know Jess is a huge admirer of. This should be a good one! Tonight she most certainly gained at least one very highly enthusiastic new fan 🙂
Towards the end of her set, Jess was joined for a couple of numbers by Milly. They perform so well together, and I believe they are doing some recordings. I can hardly wait to hear the results!
Milly herself took centre stage next, and it was an especially lovely and relaxed, informal and low-key set in this cracking pub. There was some background chatter but it was muted and nothing more than ambient sound, only enhancing the mood of the occasion. Milly played one of her effortlessly beautiful sets, fluid and without need for set lists, she just closed her eyes and played the songs that the mood of the night asked for, with a mixture of of new and old, and even brand new, as well as the first song she ever learned to play. At one stage she apologised for singing with her eyes shut, yet frequently I found myself listening with eyes closed too, utterly transported and ‘in the song’. It felt so organic and pure, and I sensed that Milly tonight was especially at ease and comfortable, and it really showed in her demeanour and voice. She in turn was also joined by Jess for a number at the end, and they perform wonderfully together. There are few things more pleasing than hearing a naturally gifted singer performing with that effortless ease of expression that we were blessed with tonight. Throughout both sets a cat in the house opposite was sitting contentedly on a windowsill occasionally stretching, reflecting the relaxed mood of all those lucky enough to be present hearing the music in the Plasterers tonight. It’s a rare privilege to feel in the right place at the right time and hear such wonderful artists perform so purely.
Very well done to both Milly and Jess, and Plasterers, please put on more nights like this, it was lovely!
Words and photos by richard shashamane 2013
Many thanks to Jess, Milly, and The Plasterers