LIVE REVIEW: Alistair James, Jay Moussa-Mann, Seventh Heaven @ Café Etch, Middlesbrough (31.05.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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This was my first visit to Café Etch, whose ceiling décor of pink blossom and lightbulbs makes for a wonderful and intimate set-up.

Seventh Heaven say they’re usually louder, but there’s only half of them tonight. The guitar-only accompaniment shines a light on Stephanie’s faultless vocals during their original songs and covers, with lyrics of final song Home a stand-out.

Jay Moussa-Mann performs a capella in the middle of the room, immediately moving everyone with the vulnerability of latest single Ghosts. Her sweet voice and skill for crafting perfect pop melodies means that, despite the lack of PA, you could hear a pin drop. Her tales of Mediocre Men and Volleyball Girls have the audience hanging on every well-written word.

Due to surgery on his hand, Alistair James’ last gig was in July 2023. He’s understandably nervous, but he’s always had the quality of material and just the right amount of swagger to win over any crowd. Backed by Chris Saunders on guitar, every song hits the mark, from the older Run for Their Money (played on piano) to touching new tune Second Wave (described as a “kick up the arse” to himself). Darling Let It Be Me is always glorious, but tonight’s highlights are the Phoenix-esque Breaking Out of the City and the witty observations of Somewhere in Between.

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