Hiding in the back of the Stables Markets in London’s own Camden Town, Proud Camden sits and plays host to some rather fabulous events. A daytime art gallery, night time music venue-cum-club, it welcomes all sorts of creative into its doors to exhibit their wares and talents. On offer this particular night was the singer Effie, holding the stage with her three piece band; a rather interesting mix of electric keyboard, a drum kit and acoustic guitar/backing vocalist. From the moment she enters, it’s clear that this show is to shine the spotlight on her vocal abilities; her dress is glamorous and her presence is certainly captivating. The audience sit in wait as she begins.
Her first song, ‘Biggest Regret’, is taken from the new EP, Conquer. It’s a beautiful sweeping ballad, and it’s from here that we get the clarity of what this act is about. Effie’s vocals are like velvet, powerful but retaining a soulful nature that’s emotive and captivating. The piano backing is expertly executed, sweeping over the keys providing a perfect accompaniment to Effie herself. Her vocal style is reminiscent of Ellie Goulding and Andreya Triana, invoking a pop-based voice to combine with an almost trip-hop backing from the drums and keys. There are times in her set that are almost verging on identical to Submotion Orchestra, which while calming and soothing to listen to, does create some element of confusion over her genre definition. While the melodies are soft, they drive the songs along; something that the band do not always offer behind her. It’s great to see the lead vocalist taking such control over her performance, Effie is certainly not lost in the mix, but it’s clear that she plays the role of conductor combined with her performance. This is by no means a bad thing, there’s no power struggle on stage and everyone appears comfortable with their position, the keys playing the lead in terms of the band. As aforementioned, they’re incredibly well executed, with emotion injected into the performance while keeping the restraint of a professional.
Something that does come to mind with the performance as a whole is the lack of a bassist. A bass player, whether acoustic or electric, could add some power behind the rhythm lines. While the acoustic guitar is elegant, her backing vocals certainly match up behind Effie’s with grace and composure, and the keys do provide some of the bass lines, having an actual player to take this line would free up the other musicians to remain in their own domain. The music from the EP has a great balance in recorded format, however live this could be aided with some deep bass lines. Effie’s songs have a wonderfully encompassing feel that could be played on soundtracks for film and television, certainly they’d be at home on high emotional scenes in films such as The Hunger Games series, and this is certainly true of the sound of the EP. In a live format, however, it does feel like the raw power that only a bass can offer is somewhat lost, but obviously adding an additional member to a line up is a personal decision.
As part of her set, Effie uses a few covers that have been rearranged for her own vocal style. In this performance, Drake’s ‘First Thing’ and Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ are the two that make the impacts. ‘First Thing’ feels like a really personal song for Effie, as her performance changes and becomes more emphasised here. Perhaps it is due to being halfway through her set and the band as a whole unit are now synchronised and in a groove, but this song feels like a real marking point in the gig. There’s movement, there’s clarity and the crowd’s reaction to this song is certainly one of encouragement and enjoyment. The arrangement is well done, with the genre change really suiting the vocals and change in instrumentation.
The Nirvana cover is a difficult one to review. Any band or act that chooses to brave the cover of this iconic song is taking an immediate risk, as there are few that have ever successfully converted it with enough separation from the original without losing the raw emotion from Cobain’s lyrics. Certainly, to a Camden crowd, this was a dangerous song to play. The arrangement immediately hit the same chords and feelings as the well-known Tori Amos cover, with a striking acoustic vibe from the guitar and piano with Effie’s own luxurious vocals. For the most part, the cover was relaxed and calm; not quite granting its own character from the original, but giving a good go. Towards the end, the drums kick in to provide the big finish and powerhouse feeling for the song, however personally, it feels a bit forced and too close to an outright cover, it’s no longer an arrangement. What works with the Drake cover is its individuality and great feel, but this is not quite the case with the Nirvana. The vocals remain the highlight, however it doesn’t feel like the strongest song of the set.
The finale for the set was Effie’s own ‘Addicted’, the new single from the EP. In terms of relation to the EP, this is very clearly the single track. It’s got the driving drums, and the whole song feels more alive than the others. The lyrics feel personal, and the backing vocals provided are again a lovely side to Effie’s lead. All members of the band are in this in spirit and soul, giving a wonderful end to a fantastic performance. It’s not often in Camden that such a vocalist plays between the usual rock and metal acts, and has provided a well needed respite for not only this reviewer, but potentially many of the crowd too. Effie is certainly a new flavour to a mix, and one that should be celebrated, congratulated and cultivated as she moves forward into the next stages of her career.