LIVE REVIEW: ‘Life & Soul’ Bristol 9.4.17

We could all use some uplifting and encouragement, so when a live music, poetry and spoken word event pops up with the name ‘Life & Soul’, you can expect it to do exactly what it says on the tin.

On Sunday 9th April, public relations and events company E. Stellar PR hosted its first live event at Toto’s Wine Bar in Bristol. Where “soul and inspiration collide”, the evening promised to “uplift, inspire, spread love, bring life and be 100% honest and real as artists share their truth”. Sounds good, no? I must reveal that I was part of the line-up, and I also happen to be sibling to the organizer, but here’s proof of my non-bias:

(Yes, I did just use Twitter as a credible source – it’s 2017.)

Nepotism debunked and thus pushed aside, honestly – if I thought it was crap, I wouldn’t write about it.

Keira and Soulay of the podcast ‘Two Fools Talking‘ came down from London to host. After the jocular duo warmed up the crowd a little with an introduction and a joke or two, the poetry began.

First up: Thembe Mvula – an experienced and pronounced performer. She shared poems about familial relationships and of young women and their desire to save, support and stand by young men who, perhaps, sadly are only looking for fugacious shelter. Thembe, being committed to her feelings and her musings, speaks with a satisfying conviction. I had never heard her material before and I felt every word that she spoke.

Thembe Mvula Life & Soul Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR

It’s cool how you can reconnect with people from your mostly undeveloped, nascent past and discover that they not only have creative talents, but are actively pursuing them – Pierise Poetry is someone I went to primary school with. She has more of an abstract quality as a poet, which I like – it makes you think and really pay close attention. She performed a few short poems and a couple of long ones, and my favourite had to be her ending piece about confidence and her refusal to conform or be less, said to be inspired by one of her favourite poets, Maya Angelou.

Pierise Poetry Life & Soul Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR

To close out the poetry section, Aiden Williams came up to do (if I’m not mistaken) one of his first performances. A wearer of many hats (among other things a writer, poet and photographer) Aiden has been writing poetry for a long time and his thoughts on life are deep. Much like his personality when you meet him, often he’ll say one line or finish a stanza and it will take you a full five seconds to gather the full import of his intention – and your response will either be to laugh or profoundly nod your head. He’s a skilled writer, knowledgeable of the sharp tools he possesses in order to build concepts you want to walk inside, interrogate and experience.

Aiden Williams 2 Life & Soul Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR

Ellis Aaron Life & Soul Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR

To begin the musical part of the night was singer-songwriter producer Ellis Aaron. You can’t get any more soulful than his voice and his productions have a groove and contagiousness, which the band (Mike, Jon and Jerry on keys, drums and bass, respectively) effortlessly absorbed and played. His focus is towards the light and moving on, a powerful and universally relatable message.

 

Life & Soul Toto's Wine Bar Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR

Two Fools Talking Life & Soul Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR
(Left to right) Soulay and Keira of Two Fools Talking

 

Genie Marie brought spoken word firmly into the programme after the brief interval (Aiden had performed one spoken word piece at the end of his set), and she was definitely the energy high of the night. Her flow is serious, swagger effortless. She really vibes on the music and jammed with the band as she talked of relationships, inspired by the successful ones around her. Then Hetty Jane performed a handful of covers from Alicia Keys, Bob Marley and Lauryn Hill. Accompanied by Everton on guitar, it was a stripped set, which is all her emotionally-driven vocals need – the audience was silent throughout her performance and her voice resonated, carrying her purposeful deliverance of each song.

Genie Marie Life & Soul Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR

Hetty Jane Life & Soul Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR

 

Last up (or so everybody thought) was Eleanor VS.

…I’m not about to review myself, so let’s just say I had a good time.

At the end, our organizer Estelle sprung a surprise on the audience, gifting two covers by India.Arie and Emily King, which I was honoured to join her on, as well as with the band.

Life & Soul delivered and lived up to its word. It was a great turnout and it should also be noted that the majority of the acts were from Bristol – hardly surprising is it, my fellow Bristolians? It was such a treat to witness so many talented artists and see the world from their enlightened eyes. Here’s to more truthful and authentic soul being brought to our own.

For more information, news and updates on E. Stellar PR and its events visit:

estellarpr.co.uk
facebook.com/estellarpruk
instagram.com/e.stellarpr
twitter.com/estellarpr

Life & Soul Bristol 090417 Eleanor VS. Estelle Hartley and Everton
(Left to right) Eleanor VS., Estelle and Everton cover India.Arie’s “Get It Together”

Thank you to Lauren Powell for photographing the event.

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FEATURED SONG: JoJo – “Mad Love.”

All is right in the world. Order has been restored. Finally, thankfully, gladly after 10 long years, it can be said with near absolute certainty that Joanna “JoJo” Levesque is releasing her third studio album.

There’s a lot that’s happened in the gap between The High Road (2006), which was JoJo’s last official LP, and the forthcoming Mad Love (out 14th October). In short, while dealing with legal troubles – without a doubt the main reason for her lengthy mainstream absence – she never let that stop her from creating and releasing music to her fans. She put out the mixtapes Can’t Take That Away from Me (2010) and Agápē (2012), followed by the EPs LoveJo (2014), III (2015) and LoveJo2 (2015).

Then in the late summer of 2016, (having signed to and settled in at new label Atlantic), JoJo dropped “F*** Apologies” featuring Wiz Khalifa, which was announced as the lead single from the long-awaited new album. The cavalier and unrelenting pop/R&B track garnered a positive response and an official video was uploaded to the singer’s YouTube account. Since then she released another three songs as promotional singles; “FAB” featuring Remy Ma, piano ballad “Music”, and one I thought I’d give some special attention to: the bold and impressive title track.

Have a listen…

First off, it’s nice to hear popular music written in a time signature other than 4/4; the song swings and bops along to the picking of the electric guitar, stomping kick drum and wailing backing vocals. There’s this old school love-song vibe going on, but it’s not tired or dated. Resounding horns, thudding bass notes, sprinkled with keys and ringing bells send you right back to the 60s and early 70s, before you return to the hook of churchy backing vocals enchantingly chanting “mad love.”

The song was co-written by Levesque along with Nikki Flores, and Josh Monroy who produced it. After the first two records of tracks mostly written for the singer, it’s great to hear JoJo’s literary voice again. The lyrics are filled with graphic images like, “you took a knife to my heart / cut out the rational parts” and, “twisting like wire in your arms / a dangerous place for my heart.” The statements are significant, metaphors sharp and honest as she fully and perfectly describes a love that is grand, insane, and at times a little torturous.

JoJo’s head voice is light and capable, breathing the notes in the first chorus with sweet ease. Then out of nowhere this big, powerful voice climbs, belting out declarations with no reservations, and then skids down the jazz-blues runs that she’s been performing in that very same vintage-soul manner since she was about five – and I do mean literally. You can hear her experience; the 25-year-old’s vocal expression seems that it should belong to someone of at least twice her age – and it has seemed that way since she first came on the scene when she was half her age…

“Mad Love” is already a signature song in her return to the mainstream. With a deep and magical sound, and a manner and presence all her own, you can see why she chose it for or wrote it to be the title track. It makes a bold statement, that JoJo – the artist who, for her knowledgeable and loyal fans, never actually went away – is indeed back. And here to slay.

The album Mad Love. comes out Friday 14th October.