On what’s now becoming a ‘normal’ sweltering London day last week, I battled my way across the sweat-filled city to Camden Assembly.
And I’m mighty glad I did, not least because I discovered a new favourite band in the night’s openers, Handsome Eric. Starting off with a few solo numbers before being joined by the rest of his band, Stephen O’Dowd immediately captivates with his raw, honest emotion and scuzzy no-frills charm. As whirring hooks and a driving energy bring to mind Manchester artist, and personal favourite, Kiran Leonard, it’s love at first listen. I’ve fallen head over heels with their lush, impassioned, lo-fi fuzz.
I first became a fan of Shamir upon hearing the frenzied joy of 2014’s ‘On The Regular’, and my love continued to grow when I saw him live at Visions Festival the next year, and he gave me the sweetest of hugs when I told him I was a fan. However, since then, Shamir has grown up, matured and created a sound that is entirely his own, honing it perfectly to suit the person that he is today.
As a sparkling Shamir takes to the stage, he informs us that set opener ‘I Can’t Breathe’ is about police brutality – a sombre, but necessary, start. Immediately exuding a heart-rending raw emotion, the moving beauty of Shamir’s vocals and the delicate simplicity of the melody ooze an endearing vulnerability as the track builds to a poignant climax.
Whilst a step away from the uptempo set that I caught at Visions Festival three years ago, it’s no less wonderful, In fact, more so; to see Shamir come into his own, and present his true self to us on stage, is a breath of fresh air on this humid evening.
Continuing with an angst-driven energy, Shamir introduces ‘You Have A Song’ with an honest wit – “I only write songs about people I hate…”, before expressing his disdain for ‘Straight Boy’s. Touching on the affecting theme of mental health on ‘Room’ (“a song about depression… it’s a happy song though.”) and ‘Glass’ (“about not letting shitty people break you..”), he lays his soul bare with a shimmering, empowered passion.
Upping the tempo for ‘90s Kids’ and (“an unexpected cover”) Ariana Grande’s ‘No Tears Left To Cry’, Shamir’s colourful energy continues to uplift and inspire as the set draws to a close. Returning to the stage solo, for a brief encore of the only offering from 2014’s Ratchet we’ll hear – he lets the audience choose ‘In For The Kill’ as the final song of the night, and instantly all my troubles float away as his distinctive sweeping vocals and vibrant emotion fill the air.
More like witnessing a stirring work of art than simply your average ‘gig’, Shamir’s set exudes a poignant relevance with all that’s going in the world, revealing a gritty edge that I hadn’t before witnessed. A welcome edge, proving Shamir to be one of the most necessary and unique (and indeed loveable) artists around today; and one whose voice we need now more than ever.