Stephanie Dosen totters onto stage, wearing a pair of new shoes with big heels and clutching a bottle of white wine.

“I’m pissed”, she sniggers early on in her set, before purring proudly, “I play my guitar better when I’m drunk though.”

It is and it isn’t true.

The Wisconsin-raised, now London-based Dosen has won much acclaim for her British debut album, ‘A Lily for the Spectre’. With her unique blend of ethereal folk pop, she has drawn critical comparisons, describing her as her label Bella Union’s Joni Mitchell, and quite rightly so. She really is that good.

At her best tonight, she reveals herself as an extraordinary talent, the rippling chords of her guitar and the pulsating harmonies of her lush vocals soaring across the Ark’s long, narrow room and, with the stage at one end of the venue, silencing even its furthest corners.

With a four-piece backing band that includes a cellist, a violinist and a drummer, all three of whom are women, and Bella Union boss and former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde on keyboards and bass, Dosen makes music of the sweetest, most saccharine quality and for the heavens. Her opening number, a new song called ‘Somerset’, and the title track from ‘A Lily for the Spectre’, are both especially haunting.

As the lady, however, says, she is pissed. The set is punctured with long, drawn-out stories about a show she has just played with Jose Gonzalez ; a recent road trip she made across America and her New Year party, all of which go nowhere. Songs regularly start up and then, twenty or third seconds later, break apart, as she screws up on her chords and vocals, or moves abruptly into another strange, usually swear word-strewn soliloquy.

It all comes across totally at odds with the celestial vision of her music ; her porcelain-doll, white-blonde looks and even the elegant, black chiffon-dress she is wearing. At first it is quaint and amusing ; at the end of an hour turgid and infuriating.

Raymonde looks at his prodigy with the seeming awkward, silent embarrassment of a parent whose child has just thrown a tantrum in a supermarket. As Dosen comes back onto stage to play a final solo number, and the rest of the band sit at its side, he does possibly the most sensible thing and scarpers off to the dressing room.

Tonight’s show has been a set of vivid contrasts, and, when Dosen has got her act together and just actually sung, one of great, if brief heights.

One, of course, can’t begrudge Stephanie Dosen for wanting to have fun on tour. One can’t really even get that angry at her for getting drunk before the gig. Most of us, after all, get ourselves too into similar, occasional scrapes with alcohol. Self-indulgence at the expense of your crowd though is never a good thing, and one can only hope that this is an isolated incident, rather than a regular occurrence, if this highly gifted singer and songwriter is to keep her audience.













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