Thursday 19 January 2012

Christina Perri @ Shepherds Bush Empire 18th January

Jar Of Hearts was undoubtedly one of the breakthrough songs of 2011.  And it seems it was a shock to Perri.  "This is so bananas", she exclaims to the crowd.

Yet there is more to this singer/songwriter than that ubiquitous jar.  For all her pop fandom, she has the appearance of a rock star, arms covered in tattoos, channeling PJ Harvey and Alanis Morisette in her looks.  She strides across the stage with surprising ease for a 24 year old only recently thrown into the spotlight, belting out numbers in her slightly nasal voice, a twang of Avril Lavigne or Hayley Williams, but always with a fixed grin exuding girlish charm.  Her sheer glee at being on stage is infectious.

This may not be the girl you'd expect judging from her album 'lovestrong' (pictured), a collection of heartfelt, sorrowful love songs.  Her performance had an altogether rockier edge and a greater variety that certainly appeased the crowd.  Of course, Jar Of Hearts went down a storm, causing an eruption of cameras and throaty singing, yet Perri proved she is worthy of her recent success.  Numbers like Bang Bang Bang and brand new track Crazy were belted out with guitar solos and meaty drums, whilst A Thousand Years, written for the recent Twilight film, showed her pop side and a cover of Roy Orbison's Crying was included as an extra injection of variety.  There was still plenty of space for her softer songs, but these don't translate so well to stage, better suited to solo listening on headphones with a box of tissues.  As such, these portions of the set tended to drag, although they offered Perri a chance to showcase her multi-instrumental talents.

What's most creditable is Perri's overarching appeal.  Her music has enought downbeat, edgy emotion to appease the emo tweencore, but it's equally poppy, melodic and easy-listening enough for Radio 2 listeners.  Her key demographic, though, is undoubtedly the younger generation - with some of her music and lyrics lacking a certain level of maturity, it's clear that these songs were written when Perri was in her teens herself.  Sad Song is the biggeset culprit here, with its puerile opening "Today I'm gonna write a sad song, gonna make it really long, so that everyone can see, that I'm very unhappy".  Unfortunately, for all her songs' honesty, her grinning performance was a little too squeaky-clean-American, each song preceded by the story of its conception as if to justify its existence.  At last, her guard came down with Jar Of Hearts, though the audience's enthusiastic singing caused that grin to creep back onto her face. 

The support act, Marcus Foster, was a great match with his John Mayer-esque style of blues.  His songwriting had similarities with that of City And Colour, as he sang in an impressively high, raspy tenor.  It did, however, lack the expanded instrumentation of his recorded material, which is worth checking out.

It's obvious that Perri is thrilled with her place in the spotlight, but at times this displaces the real emotion at the core of her songwriting.  With a bit more grit, Perri could have an exciting career ahead of her that exceeds that of her breakthrough hit.  In the meantime, she delivered a performance that was more than a pleasant surprise.