by A_F_R_O_W

London was perfect.

Reflected rain had pebble-dashed neon-lit pavements, making them sparkle, like carpets of granite, which had captured falling stars.

I chased them to King’s Cross… To ‘Scala’, to be exact and was met by a canopy of umbrellas, huddled together, like close-knit family.

Perhaps I had taken the brief, somewhat, too seriously…foregoing a brolly of my own, for a knit of another kind…Namely, a beanie…Not so much close, but tight and protective, all the same! After all, the ticket said ‘Island Life’…and who was I to go against the vibe?! On reaching the capacious Scala foyer, sweet-talked by warmth and a very welcoming spot in the Frow, I was glad to have taken the risk!

Tonight was going to be about journeys in music and spoken word… The first in a series of hybrid creative experiences, presented by the UK branch of Island Records, showcasing, live and direct, their uber-exciting array of newly-signed talent. By its conclusion, the evening had delivered way above and beyond that!

Seconds were out, spotlights were up and all-girl trio, ‘Juce’ strutted on, decked-out in band-emblazoned boxing robes, ready to give a knock-out performance! Coverings were soon discarded, to reveal Cherish, Georgia and Chalin, rocking slick suits, edgy cut-outs and boho-chic, with mega-platform heels…and, accompanied by their fantastic rhythm guitarist and drummer, a set of eclectic, hook-heavy hits followed!

From-the-get, the combination of bold bass, nimble Nordwave keys and lashings of lyrical toplines rang true of ‘nouveau soultronica’, spritzed with 80’s ‘Southern Freez’ inflections and Nocera’s ‘Summertime’ style. As with each track, the sound simply grew in groove… and, due to the genius rule of 24-hour recording and mastering, employed by Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey, complementary production ensured ultimate audience appreciation of raw perfection, in no-nonsense, distraction-free floor-fillers. Case-in-point, the super-sassy ‘Animal Attraction’, reminiscent of the mesmeric power of Cheryl Lynn’s ‘Got To Be Real’ and internet smash, ‘Call You Out’, both, of which, exemplified the Juce signature of sophisticated sounds that won’t quit, crowned by performances which pin-you-to-the-beat and don’t let go! The entire set was a 101 in ‘getting-the-party-started’, so expect to see and hear more of this electrifying trio, on the coolest fashion frows, in the funkiest videos and on the hottest playlists…and if you don’t, then demand that they set the Juce loose!

With the crowd galvanised, ‘George The Poet’ released zeitgeist spoken word, filled with highs, lows and epiphanies which had pennies and jaws dropping, in awe of his lexical dexterity. Seamlessly bridging-the-gap between driving Maybach-beat progressions and socio-political/economic backdrops, the revered lyricist presented a slice of Island Life, brimming with humour, hood-rats, phone calls, Fatherhood…enveloping listeners within a masterclass of metaphors, similes, puns and punchlines and developing narratives into site-specific theatre. This bard was in his element..at play with words and charged with purpose, in full cognition of the influence with which he had been gifted and determined to put it to the positive use for which he was the vessel. The urgency to pay such energy forward was truly touching and with such intention underpinning his spectacular recitations, even moreso, as strobes lit up faces, through lightbulb moments. Not only were hearts touched, but minds were renewed…and, whilst it is proverbially said to take a thousand voices to tell a story, in collaboration with a collective of superb musicians, George The Poet’s solo spoken vocal left an indellible impression upon all in attendance, which will echo for generations to come.

Songs from the overflow-of-the-heart were in absolute evidence during JP Cooper’s stirring performance. From the plaintive poignance of ‘Oh Brother’ and ‘What Went Wrong’, he and his supporting artistes glazed the air with a flawless falsetto and rhapsodic harmonies. The confession of nervousness made the sonic purity of JP’s vocal all the more incredible! He needn’t have worried. If anything, the admission simply served to endear him to the already-adoring audience, that much more…and they were soon to be further justified in their admiration!

With his favourite guitar cradled in his arms, there was no other dynamic, than to mind-blowingly sing! That which ensued was a litany of beautifully-crafted music, both old and new, expressed through stunningly moving melodies and gentle glissando, doused in delicious, live cello, peppered with delicate percussion and contrasted with turns of sheer sonic power, which definitely kept the quiet out! To that end, the full band arrangement of ‘Oh The Water’ was a standout rendition, with a wonderfully supple bassline that danced from stave-to-stage… The collection was, quite literally, breathtaking… and with Stateside dates imminent, there’s no doubt that JP Cooper’s ‘EP’ will become EP-IC, and his reputation for soul-sharing of the most profound nature will, most assuredly, blossom.

The night was an unforgettable tribute to the rich heritage at Island Records for, both, sagacious talent-spotting and signing, whilst safeguarding a future legacy of genuinely, artist-led creativity. Sade might have crooned about the ‘Diamond Life’ but after the impeccable offerings at ‘Scala’ on Monday night, I’m all about living the ‘Island Life’!


Soul-deep Afrow-Appreciation to:-

Juce, George The Poet and JP Cooper…for sharing your innate artistry, with the utmost exuberance and passion…

Island Records UK, for presenting an utterly outstanding #IslandLife showcase and continuing to develop and support such uniquely creative UK talent.

All at Scala for hosting the event and making us all feel at home, rather than at a venue.

My fellow guests in the audience… It was a privelege to have experienced this awesome event with you all!