Reviewed on Thursday November 14

By the end of Annabelle Kay’s set, you wanted to break up with your undeserving lover and quit your job. Solo onstage with a semi-acoustic guitar and an Amy Winehouse beehive, Kay’s dark country melodies, combined with honest lyrics, captivated her audience.

Moving to face the back wall, Kay sat at the grand piano in the corner of the stage. Although physically removed from her audience, her comfort behind the piano provided an unparalleled intimacy to her music. I’m not sure if anyone breathed during her entire set.

Hollie Smith walked onstage a different woman to how I remembered her from New Zealand. In a long black dress and boots, as soon as the celebrated Kiwi soul singer sang her first note, I was back there. Opening with ‘Mamma’, Smith’s signature smoky voice had never felt so real.

Smith was accompanied by a keyboard, and this tour-friendly option left powerful songs ‘Can’t Let You Down’ and ‘Let Me Go’ to be carried by her voice alone. Performing tracks from her upcoming fourth studio album, Smith shared hints of what to expect and the challenges she was already facing. She is co-writing for the first time, and if ‘Make Believe’ is anything to base her new album on, expect something completely new from Smith.

Finally taking advantage of the grand piano behind her, Smith’s cover of jazz standard ‘Summertime’ was something to brag home about. With songs stripped down to be as intimate as the venue, ‘Come For Me Here’ and ‘Overtime’ left the crowd one inch away from emotional overload.

As the opening chords of ‘Bathe In The River’ began, the overexcitedreaction from the crowd led Smith to ask who in the audience was from New Zealand. Everyone’s hand went up.


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