As a music venue embedded into Stamford Bridge (the stadium called home by Chelsea F.C.), Under the Bridge was an appropriately unique venue for this unique show. An industry showcase set up by trade paper Music Week, networking hub MusicConnex, promoters ILUVLIVE, and south coast music school BIMM, it goes without saying that the high-profile nature of this show inevitably brought its own special set of performance pressures. A quality showcase set has the potential to push an act to the next level, while a duff performance can see a band crossed off “Ones To Watch” lists in the blink of an eye.
On top of the potential for mind-freezing attacks of performance anxiety, this was not a treble-friendly night. As a result, Bella Figura and Jungle Doctors both suffered from a mix in which their guitars and cymbals battled Highlander-style for the chance to be heard. Of course, there could only be one victor – and the cymbals won out every time, robbing both sets of the punch and grit necessary for rock-oriented acts to make their respective marks. Despite that issue, Bella Figura remained noteworthy for epic drums and vocals, while Jungle Doctors managed to keep their heads and make it through the gauntlet in five pieces.
Princess Slayer are not a top-end-dependent band – an asset which made their set the first of the night to get hearts pumping and bodies moving in time to their deep and intense EDM tunes. Princess Slayer have been TMMP favourites for the past year and a half thanks to their sheer passion, energy, and brilliant songcraft. From personal favourite Passion Alley to The After Party via Princess Slayer’s cover of Sam Smith and Naughty Boy’s La La La and brand new tune Snake Skin (a track that’s collected an iTunes play count in three figures since TMMP was afforded a recent preview copy), this set was a start-to-finish barnstormer that made me even more proud to call myself a Princess Slayer supporter.
I was impressed with the breadth of Geovarn‘s influences. At his best, this guy draws on the vibes of Michael Jackson and Prince to fuel an utterly captivating presence – and his rapping is badass. However, when he turns his hand to RnB, Geovarn quickly falls prey to clichés, and it becomes clear that his heart’s not really in it. I’m not a big RnB listener, but even I’ve heard enough artists crooning “Yeah” and “Ooh baby” to last me a lifetime. That stuff may still sell to those who just want the same song again and again, but Geovarn’s passion reserves bottomed out when it came time for him to dig out the sub-Jason Derulo material. It felt like watching someone being forced to work a crappy day job, not living their dream.
Stick Geovarn back in the classic pop and in-your-face rap games, and things change immediately. There’s fire in his eyes, sharpness in his delivery, and suddenly it all makes sense. He spits out lyrics you can feel – and you feel them because he leaves you no choice. It’s plainly obvious that Geovarn means what he says and what he sings – as long as he’s performing in line with his passions. Geovarn absolutely deserves a chance to push beyond his current boundaries, and if he pursues the path his heart’s clearly set on, he’ll be blowing minds within a year or two.
Fifi Rong was exceptional. Going to a show and experiencing something your mind can’t quite comprehend (but is still convinced is absolutely awesome) is one of the greatest experiences music has to offer. Fifi Rong’s set is a sumptuous amalgam of heavy bass-based beats, eye-popping visuals that brought to mind the abstract CGI feeds from the Hatsune Miku opera TMMP reviewed in Paris, theatrical and deeply detailed costuming, and a vocal that was flawless (bar the rarest and most insignificant slips) despite Rong’s admitted nervousness. Fifi Rong won me over from note one, and kept a significant proportion of the venue’s inhabitants entranced for the duration – a real and effortlessly-earned achievement.
Although I’m not in Naomi Scott‘s target market, her brand of energetic pop (taking in influences from Eliza Doolittle, Gabriella Cilmi, and Britney Spears) still proved infectious and entertaining. Judging from the faces in the crowd at this show, most of Scott’s audience were in the same boat as me – but I can definitely imagine theatres and arenas full of screaming teenagers going wild for her. Naomi Scott is the kind of artist mainstream-oriented A&R departments dream about, and I’m sure her already-lengthy list of accolades and credits will continue growing for some time to come.
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