It’s said that one should never meet one’s idols, for fear that only disappointment will follow. Well, for the sake of tortuously mangling a metaphor, I’m going to suggest that one should never see a musical act solely for the reason that he or she grew up in the same town as you.

Luke Sital-Singh was brought up in the suburbs of south-west London, the sort of place from which, ordinarily, we don’t expect singers and songwriters to come. The only bona fide musical genius known to have been born in New Malden was John Martyn, and his family hot-footed it to Scotland pretty soon afterwards.

Paul Weller was, of course, from Woking, half an hour down the main line to Southampton, but even Woking seems to have more going for it in the music-cred stakes, being far-enough away from London to be a different place, both literally and metaphorically.

London’s actual suburbs, JG Ballard notwithstanding, are a nowhereland of by-and-large reasonable comfort and reasonable, not-too-ostentatious, not-too-much wealth. So, it’s unusual to find that a man being feted as the next Bon Iver hails from the same.

On stage at The Tabernacle in Westbourne Park, Luke Sital-Singh looks a little unsure of himself – which is not surprising, given the size of the audience that’s turned out for him. He's handsome, in the manner of a 1970's Iranian student, and dressed casually. He's got the goods, musically – his songs show off his guitar technique and his powerful voice.

But what’s missing is the songwriting chops. While musically they’re catchy and often arresting, moving dynamically between lightness and thundering power, the lyrics left something to be desired. Bon Iver isn’t far off, musically – the songs are delicate, and when Sital-Singh is playing them on his own, are slight and tantalising. But the words too often felt like they’d been jammed in for the sake of rhyming, rather than for their poetry – the safe option.

After three songs, a drummer and a second guitarist, who later plays bass, join Luke on stage. The trio’s sound is a little reminiscent of Bright Eyes, though without Conor Oberst’s wild charm. That’s not to say Luke Sital-Singh isn’t charming; quite the opposite – he is disarmingly pleasant and seems, well, nice. "Is everyone comfortable? Is everyone safe?" he asks at one point, with the sense that he is only half-joking.

It’s probably unfair to draw the conclusion that the safety of growing up in the suburbs led to the safety of the songs, but it’s hard to avoid. One early song with the band which features the lyric "we'll become the greatest lovers" – feels like a reheated version of David Bowie's 'Heroes'.

The band actually acts to the music’s detriment - without them Sital-Singh sounds lonesome, vulnerable and scraggly, but the band all together sound too much like a group of Mumford clones.

He appears to acknowledge the fact that the band seem to detract in a way from his solo charisma: "Don't be fooled," he says, "the songs with the band are no less miserable than the ones before."

His biggest sellers so far, such as 'Bottled Up Tight' get a cheer from the audience, and he also plugs his new EP as well as playing the songs off it.

Towards the end, eighteen men and women from the London Contemporary Voices Choir take the stage, all dressed in black. The sound throughout has been very good, up in the roof of this old Victorian church but the choir seem drowned out by the instruments.

The band’s second song with the choir is 'Nearly Morning' from the new 'Tornados' EP for which Luke sits at the piano. It sounds a bit, favourably, like Chrissie Hynde in the Pretenders’ more contemplative moments, both through the piano-playing and the vocal inflections.

For the encore, both the choir and the band are dispensed with and Luke is alone again, for 'Fail for You', on his own with the electric guitar, a much more interesting proposition. But while Luke Sital-Singh’s music and technique were enjoyable, his lyrics felt too safe and yes, too suburban, to do his undoubted talents justice.









Related Links:


http://lukesitalsingh.com/
https://twitter.com/lukesitalsingh
https://www.facebook.com/lukesitalsinghmusic


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