Bush Hall, with its its rich red vel­vet drapes, majes­tic chan­de­liers and upstairs bar with view­ing gallery is opu­lence in minia­ture. Such swag­ger for such a tiny place. This Sun­day eve is Mixel­la­neous Melodies, and true to its name, it’s a very ran­dom mix of artists who play to a relaxed week­end crowd. Ozzie band Will Udall get into its stride with a nice­ly rock­ing set and this, com­bined with Will’s easy-going, chat­ty per­son­al­i­ty, give him an edge over the oth­er ear­ly acts. The next moment the evening sud­den­ly shifts onto a dif­fer­ent plane as Phildel starts her set.

I did­n’t know much about Phildel before this gig. I had just read the bare bones of her back­sto­ry – a dark time dur­ing her child­hood, dur­ing which for ten years she was for­bid­den to play music by her reli­gious step­fa­ther. This painful time has, nat­u­ral­ly, proved a dri­ving force for her music.

It’s won­der­ful when you get the expe­ri­ence to see an artist who you are unfa­mil­iar with, and be total­ly blown away by their per­for­mance. Phildel – half Irish and half Hong-Kong Chi­nese – pos­sess­es a voice both emo­tive and mes­meris­ing, with an incred­i­ble warmth and great range. It would be dif­fi­cult to pick favourite tracks, espe­cial­ly on first hear­ing, but I was entranced by Beside You and Storm Song from her new album The Dis­ap­pear­ance of the Girl.

Cre­at­ing a strong visu­al nar­ra­tive is of equal impor­tance to the music and Phildel weaves a poet­ic, dreamy lay­er of mag­ic and sym­bol­ism, redo­lent with nat­ur­al imagery. Even for her short set tonight there are visu­al clues dot­ted here and there: an owl in the tan­gle of branch­es on the piano and a dra­mat­ic image of a wolf’s head on her dress.

She has a tour in the plan­ning stages, but before that, she’s putting on an excit­ing-sound­ing show of her own at St Pan­cras Old Church in April, with music and visu­al elements.

To close the evening is the Ali War­ren Band. I’ve had their CD with the sin­gle, What We Say on repeat, and it’s a real treat to see them again – the last time as part of Sofar Sounds last sum­mer. The band have expand­ed to a five-piece and this includes a cel­list – their fuller and more lay­ered sound reminds me a lit­tle of Arcade Fire. Despite moments when the nuances of Ali’s voice appeared to get a bit lost under the weight of more instru­men­ta­tion, they have some great folky mate­r­i­al and I’m hop­ing they are going to be sign­ing up for some fes­ti­vals this summer.

Ali Warren Band, Bush Hall 2013

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