A. A. Williams / Jo Quail @ Lafayette, London 4th March 2022
After watching numerous live performances I had booked for early 2022 either cancel completely or reschedule, it did get to a point where I didn’t dare open any emails, for fear of seeing my whole 2022 agenda turn into dust before my eyes. Seeing Emma Ruth Rundle reschedule was the breaking point for me, so when the absolutely incredible Mono then said they were also postponing their London show until September, my heart sank. There were two reasons for this feeling. One, for effectively having to wait another half a year for my first full Mono experience, and two, because it also meant that the likelihood of seeing one of my personal favourite’s, A.A. Williams, who was due to support, was also out of the equation. The pain is very real.
After seeing A.A. at Ramsgate music hall, way back in September of 2021, for weeks after, I was a little bit consumed in trying to fully understand just how profoundly I had been moved. I was also a little gutted, as I had then been unable to attend any following shows of the tour, due to parenting/work/life commitments. So intense was the experience I had been left with from the first time round, to now accept that I wasn’t going to see A.A. again was a little bit gutting.
So, when A.A. stepped in and committed to still performing at the same venue (The Lafayette, London), on the same date that Mono were due to initially perform, my heart ‘may’ have skipped a beat. To see the addition of the phenomenal Jo Quail in support, was like a dream come true. After seeing Jo perform last year at the Portals Festival in London and being totally blown away by her sheer scope and talent, the prospect of another round of Jo Quail in action was too much to ignore.
So, on a wet Friday evening, I hopped on to a train with my son, and headed to London, ready to be blown away. I had warned my son that it would be an experience, but I don’t think he was even prepared for what he was about to see.
For anyone who knows Lafayette, I’m sure they will agree that it is quite an intimate venue. It isn’t a big concert hall, more a smaller venue, that only holds a couple of hundred people, at most, but it was the perfect setting for an evening of beautifully exquisite ambience.
As for the performers themselves, honestly, if these names are new to you, then you are late to the party. You really need to jump in, and experience two of the most underrated, but absolutely intoxicating performers of the twenty-first century.
I will come to A.A. later as before that, I need, no, I MUST tell you about the one and only Jo Quail.
Jo is one of the humblest, friendliest, most incredible talents, that I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing perform live. Twice now, I have been left completely breathless. Jo plays an electric cello, but when I say ‘plays’, she paints with music and sound. A true virtuoso, Jo doesn’t just make pretty tunes, she builds and constructs in your mind, through sound. Jo’s soundscapes are like splashes of colour in the sky. Like the northern lights bursting into song, whenever she plays, and tonight she was absolute fire.
Making it look completely effortless, to watch Jo perform is like watching art itself. On stage, just as she is off it, Jo is absolutely charming, and talking to the audience is a joy to experience. After a brief introduction, an eerie air befalls Lafayette, and Jo unveils the first track of a set designed to stimulate an emotional response. Throughout its course, I watch to see the faces of my fellow gig goers, and the thing I pick up on is the amount of people who are stood, transfixed, with their eyes closed. Obviously completely lost in the music, and away, on a different plain altogether. I get this, as I find myself taken away whenever I listen to Jo too.
to watch Jo perform is like watching art itself…
Each new track is a new journey. The travel from soft, hushed beginnings, to huge apocalyptic crescendos, make it abundantly clear that Jo not only plays, but completely understands the emotional experience that she gives through her music, and I am left overwhelmed by the time she concludes her set.
As the interval music dies away, and the ambience becomes instantly heavier, the giant backlit ‘A’ is momentarily obscured, as A.A. Williams takes to the stage.
As the opening note’s role in, I’m instantly taken back to the same feelings that I had all those months ago in Ramsgate. To witness A.A. is a thing to be totally immersed in. At the mere whisper of a note in the air, I feel shivers down my spine. The whole room is fixated on her presence and hang off of each and every moment. There is something completely transcendental about A.A.’s work, every single song is understatedly beautiful. Even the most minuscule of movements, the slightest note, is so powerful. A.A. takes the pain, and transforms it from something destructive, into something magical.
There is something completely transcendental about A.A.’s work, every single song is understatedly beautiful…
Through the course of the set, it’s hard to want to even breathe, for fear of upsetting the surrounding air, and by the time the set draws to a close, I already know I’m going to leave, and want to come back time and time again, just to see A.A. perform. Even now, days later, typing this review up, the mere thought of seeing A.A. perform again sends me right back to Friday night, and an impeccable performance at Lafayette.
All in all, to say I have been truly taken away for the evening by two phenomenal musicians doesn’t even scratch the surface. To say I have had one of the best live experiences of my life would be closer to the truth, and so the thought of seeing both again is definitely on for the future. I’m already front and centre for Jo Quail at this year’s Portals Festival in May, and if I can, a sneaky visit back up the smoke to catch A.A. Williams again the following week too…
A. A. Williams
Scribed by: Lee Beamish
Photos by: Simon Kallas