The Lit­tle Noise Ses­sions in aid of Men­cap are now into their sev­enth year. Curat­ed by Jo Whiley, the gigs take place over six or so nights, with a choice of line­ups designed to please most music lovers. The artists give their time free to the Men­cap char­i­ty, which is strug­gling with the gov­ern­men­t’s fur­ther cuts to ser­vices for those with learn­ing disabilities.

The Lit­tle Noise gigs are hap­pen­ing at the St John-at-Hack­ney Church in east Lon­don. It’s a unique and won­der­ful 18th-cen­tu­ry build­ing, sad­ly in need of some funds itself –  tonight clever use of blue and pink light­ing gives the church’s inte­ri­or a moody and cool atmos­phere and hides the dam­age. It’s great to see such a var­ied crowd at this gig, includ­ing sev­er­al par­ents with their young teenage offspring.

Wednes­day opens with the Lon­don band, King Charles. Focus on stage is on the the­atri­cal and flam­boy­ant fig­ure of King Charles him­self – part 80s glam, part gyp­sy, with a touch of Prince. The band’s mate­r­i­al sim­i­lar­ly encom­pass­es a var­ied mix of styles from indie to folk and reg­gae. It’s swag­gery, cel­e­bra­to­ry stuff, all about love lost, love found. The track Love Lust in par­tic­u­lar stands out.

There’s a strong sense that many are here tonight for First Aid Kit, the Swedish sis­ter-duo, on stage with their drum­mer, and BJ Cole adding his inim­itable ped­al steel gui­tar. Sis­ters Johan­na and Kara give a heart-stop­ping­ly beau­ti­ful set, and the crowd seem utter­ly rapt. Sec­ond num­ber in is Blue with its exquis­ite har­monies, lat­er they sing the plain­tive num­ber Emmy­lou, and Lion’s Roar. They slot in Amer­i­ca by Simon and Gar­funkel – I saw FAK per­form at Shep­herd’s Bush the night before where they per­formed this num­ber as an encore, telling us that play­ing it live for Paul Simon was one of their most ter­ri­fy­ing moments.

The final act is Richard Haw­ley who bounds on stage to mas­sive applause and kicks off with the title track from his new album, Stand­ing at the Sky’s Edge. The set is a mix of his new mate­r­i­al, such as a brood­ing ver­sion of Down in the Woods, with some of his old­er bal­lads, but Haw­ley isn’t croon­ing tonight. It’s a far hard­er edged set, and it sounds great. It’s not usu­al to get an encore at Lit­tle Noise, but we’re in luck. ‘What do you want to hear” Haw­ley asks. Some­one’s request is grant­ed and he launch­es into Smoke on the Water, well the first few bars any­way, before play­ing Ocean – a killer ver­sion, with its rip­pling and dense gui­tar, I keep will­ing it not to end.

Tonight was one of those gigs that feel very spe­cial. And it’s for a good cause.


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