Samuel Nicholson @ The Lexington – 21/07/23
Updated: Aug 8
The Friday afternoon relief hung in the air at The Lexington, the same night as ‘Barbenheimer’ premiered across the globe. But at the award-winning Islington bar, the crowd was getting ready for something completely different: Samuel Nicholson’s live rendition of Birthday Suit, with support from bands Preen and Sweet Giant.
Inside the upstairs venue, the audience packed themselves into the space, excitedly ordered rounds in, laughing and celebrating another end to the week, and awaiting an evening of guaranteed magic.
The first act, Folklore favourite Preen, enter the stage looking like a glittery, younger version of The Mamas and Papas. Opener Jane Barbe, 1982 is polyphonic, beautiful, and captivating, and establish their skill as a group to get the crowd devoted. Vocalist Robin takes a broken guitar in his stride, embracing a front-man's prescence as he leans over the crowd, punctuating each break between songs with amusing and absurd stories, and it works as a great icebreaker. The depth of their harmonies and their enthusiasm and originality offer exemplary indie gold. Song About A Car is another track that stands out from their set – definitely a song we'll be revisiting.
Next up is Sweet Giant, a bohemian, exhilarating, long-haired group of musicians. The distorted guitar sounds have a strong presence in Waiting for My Man and more upbeat Changing Shape, a track that has atmospheric and futuristic guitar riffs. The band gives an audio experience of wildflowers, and the love of the wild is what originally brought them together in 2022. We've been following Sweet Giant's music for the last year, but this was the first time experiencing them live, and they blew our expectations out of the water. An electrifying joy to witness from beginning to end, Sweet Giant are effortlessly, and entirely, cool as fuck- there is simply no other way to put it.
After two dazzling opening acts, there’s a quick break to grab another pint before Samuel Nicholson enters the stage to the rapturous applause of the sold-out crowd. Nicholson has a way of making the audience believe he is possessed by the music; it is evident in his eager way of pushing his guitar far up to his chest while playing it, his eyes facing skyward. As he surrenders himself to the melody, his presence becomes an enchanting conduit, channeling the very essence of his songs. And just as he succumbs to the music's embrace, an irresistible enchantment unfolds, weaving a spell that gently draws the audience into his world. Under Nicholson's influence, time seems to stand still, and the connection between artist and listener becomes an unbreakable thread woven by the lines of his melodies.
Nicholson has got influence of hard rock from his father, and with his own journey with jazz, folk and experimental music, he has created his own path in this vibrant London scene. The hard rock influence is evident in his jaw-dropping, raw vocal delivery in West Coast Feeling and a later performance of Debussy Pullover, his most upbeat and heavy track of the night. It has a distortedness, grungy sound to it which we can't get enough of.
There are elements of experimentalism and individuality woven into the fabric of Nicholson's music. Black Dog Funeral, a track that has received praise from BBC Radio 6 Music is exceptional live, and title track Birthday Suit is also a standout track of the set. Gummi has the crowd dancing and chanting along to the memorised words of the spoken middle 8, but it's God Loves a Trier that truly ignites a chorus of voices within the audience. As Samuel Nicholson's melody takes flight, a joyful choir emerges from the crowd, harmonising with spirited cries of "I got love, I got love for you," a spontaneous outpouring of appreciation between Nicholson and his fans. It's a testament to the magnetic energy he brings to the stage, creating an unforgettable experience where music becomes a shared journey of exuberance and delight. And just when you think the euphoria couldn't be more intense, Nicholson launches into a guitar solo that transcends the ordinary, sets the audience time-travelling back to the 70's and leaves a trail of musical stardust in its wake.
A complete tour de force of a night from beginning to end, we can't wait to see all three of these incredible acts continue their journeys, and we'll be counting down the days for the next releases...
Words by Andrea Naess & Rebecca Brandler
Folklore Sessions returns on the 15th August at The Folklore Rooms for the monthly showcase.