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XamVolo, Sub Blue, Gazelle: District, Liverpool

By Shaun Ponsonby
Mon 04 December, 2017

Did we just see some defining performances from a couple of Liverpool’s stars in waiting? Shaun Ponsonby seems to think so.

It seemed like a fairly innocuous night at the start of Bido Lito’s social event. But by the end, we started to wonder whether we had just seen some defining performances from a couple of Liverpool’s brightest stars in waiting.

We entered District to silence, which seemed a little odd. Perhaps there were some technical difficulties, which would explain why Gazelle kicked things off a little late.

We have been hearing about her for well over a year now, and is part of an increasing undercurrent of jazz influenced music garnering attention. There is something indistinctly exotic in her music that is most likely born out of some unique experiences she has had personally.

It is obvious that she is still finding her definitive direction, but her best song of the night was Mad About You, which we could easily envision hearing on the radio.

Sub Blue has performed in another incarnation for a long time, but he has been making waves performing what he describes as “Suburban Blues”. He has an affable presence. He is laid back, and it lulls you into a sense of comfort.

He ran through the songs from his upcoming debut EP, but the undoubted highlight was Take a Picture – a sharp eye cast over the superficiality of selfie culture, that doesn’t once have the odious self-righteousness to step into judgement. It is merely an observation, and this coupled with persona, makes him thoroughly likeable.

This is, incidentally, capped off with a heavenly falsetto that seemed to grab everybody’s attention from the moment he did it.

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But tonight seemed to primarily be about one man, and I am here to make a bold statement; XamVolo is currently the best he has ever been.

Though always a brilliant artist, Xam’s stage persona has occasionally been a little standoffish. Which is fine, of course. Some of the greatest performers of all time have used that as an asset.

But having met him personally on numerous occasions, I have seen the warmth of his off stage personality, which has often led to me wanting him to open up to his audience a little more. Tonight he perfected the balance. He cut loose and joked with the crowd more than we have seen in the past, whilst maintaining an uber coolness that made you envy him.

What makes this all the more striking is that he did it with a performance that felt like a real show.  There were themes, there were bridges, there were interludes.

He also spread his performance technique out perfectly; his voice peaked on Down, while his energy peaked on closer Old Soul. At times it felt like he was competing with backing vocalist Amber, who some may recognise from Galactic Funk Militia, for who can be the most charismatic person on stage.

It was a polished, professional, all-encompassing performer we saw tonight – one that seems poised to take over the world.

Image: Vicky Pea