Music Hunter at Avalon, September 20
Having observed that the intimacy of this venue made it feel like someone’s living room, Felicity Wilcox also cheekily suggested that there just might be a plus-side to socially-distanced audiences in terms of quality rather than quantity. I suspect she’s on to something. This was the sixth performance I’ve attended post-lockdown, and for both music and theatre an unmistakable intensity has pervaded the audiences, as if something we’ve long taken for granted has become treasured again.
Wilcox is wide-ranging in her musical projects, from composing chamber music and film scores to improvising and writing songs. This concert comprised her songs, which she sang at the piano in dialogue with Lloyd Swanton’s bass. Despite her voice being under-amplified during the first set, the opening piece worked beautifully: the aural equivalent of looking through frosted glass, with her singing diaphanous, and enough of the words being heard to cast a spell. Thereafter her off-mike singing was too submerged for many of the songs to thrive, not aided by the density of her piano playing. Two that did shine out were All for You, a gorgeous ballad about the selflessness of true love, and I Miss the Old People, a eulogy for the elderly with their fortitude and wisdom, riding on a rhythm of stately elegance.
For the second half Wilcox’s voice was brought forward in the mix, and the songs came into focus, among them the soulful Dress Me Up, with its final sensual line of “I sink into you” leading to the concert’s strongest dialogue between piano and bass. By contrast the instrumental Mermaid, and several other groove-based songs were destabilised by Wilcox and Swanton seeming to feel the time slightly differently, perhaps because this was the pianist’s first performance in many months. But the highlights were ample compensation, including the finely-crafted and sweetly-sung Brother, and Slowly Slow, a song about slowing down the pace of life (written pre-pandemic), in which Wilcox’s marriage of words and music was utterly seamless.