January 30 It’s been nearly seven years since Petra Jean Phillipson released her debut solo album Notes On: Love, and she’s got a lot to say. During this showcase for her sprawling follow-up Notes On: Death, released the same day on Montpatry Press, she diverted from (or at least, liberally interpreted) the primary theme of the night (the gig was staged as part of Death: The Southbank Centre’s Festival Of The Living) to air her passionate views on the state of the music industry – most pertinently, that she was fed up of seeing crotch-waving popstars parading around on stage and that she hoped that young girls would find healthier role models to look up to.
With the former Free Association singer robed up like a Victorian mourner, there was no chance of hypocrisy tonight. Indeed, it wasn’t until long into the epic opener ‘Underworld Tubeophant’ (described as her impression “of how it may sound in Hell”) that she even turned to face the audience, soaring into a vocal register far above the disconcertingly atonal rumblings of the tuba. From then on, Phillipson and her band vacillated between songs of light and shade, drawing heavily from both discs (‘Blanc’ and ‘Noir’) of the new album. It was only in the encore that she ventured to revisit older material, playing both ‘Independent Woman’ and ‘I Want The Impossible’ to appreciative applause.
As visually rewarding as it was sonically engrossing, this was a show that clearly involved a lot of preparation and hard work, and Phillipson wasn’t short of thanks for her audience. “Never give up on what you believe in,” she told us, pumping her fist above her head for emphasis before setting down her guitar and disappearing into the shadows once more.
Photographed by Steve Asenjo
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