At some point in the past someone must really have done a number on Jesse Sykes. When she comes on stage and starts to sing you realise that her heart hasn’t been broken: it’s been ripped out and trampled, then put through a shredder.

This incredible sadness infects every corner of the night’s performance. Thankfully while some artists make a meal of their misery, Sykes never strays into self pitying ‘woe is me’ hysterics. It’s also possible to forgive her intense sincerity, simply because she does write such wonderful songs.

There is nothing radical or innovative about the night’s songs – all bar one drawn from the mournful alt-country of new record ‘Oh, My Girl’ and previous album ‘Reckless Burning’ – but it would take an exceptionally talented group to write and perform a better set.

The first half of the show is characterised by near perfect sound and very little crowd interaction. Sykes’s ethereal voice is complemented by her arresting elfin beauty and her band are so tight that - barring an amp failure - the first few numbers are a little too perfect. You could be listening to ‘Oh, My Girl’ at home if you closed your eyes

But after the violinist’s amp problems the gig gets a little more raw and a lot more exciting. How many gigs have actually been improved by equipment failure? As Sykes voice becomes slightly raspy it reaches new levels of agony and the heartache is turned up a notch. Ex-Whiskeytown guitarist Phil Wandscher’s razor sharp solos take on a more aggressive tone and while the second half is a bit rougher round the edges it is all the better for that.

The band also starts to look like they are enjoying themselves. Sykes frequently thanks the crowd for their applause and we discover one possible reason for her misery as she asks if we buy our CDs at HPV. Anyone who confuses UK music retailers and infectious sexual diseases is unlikely to live a happy life...

Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter are a rare group. Misery has rarely been so enjoyable or so perfectly realised.














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Commenting On: Borderline, London, 26/4/2004 - Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter








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