Live Review: JC Stewart - The Islington, London 24/09/2019
JC Stewart returns to London for the second night of four back to back sellout shows at The Islington and a brand new single ‘Pick Up Your Phone’
This show was a little different to your average gig. The bar was decked out from floor to ceiling with everything JC Stewart. From the tables and walls adorned with large scale stickers and posters, to the huge billboard-backed sofa shrouded in tall grass (a serial selfie location). Complimentary stickers and pins were spread throughout the room for those lucky enough to bag tickets to the second night of four sold out shows. I don’t believe that I’ve attended a gig of this scale that has made such an effort as this night did. It wasn’t just lucky fans who got to catch a glimpse of the self titled ‘Professional Sad Boy’, making up the crowd were some of Stewart’s friends and fellow musicians James Smith, Maisie Peters and Lewis Capaldi, among many others.
Before Stewart’s set, our ears were blessed with the sound of CHARLOTTE. Her performance was one of awe and wonder; it’s safe to say that every person in the room was enthralled by the beautiful, smooth, stripped back sound of her voice and songwriting. Realising she hadn’t introduced herself after a few songs, CHARLOTTE took the time to talk about her home in Hull and her excitement at receiving her new keyboard before the show. She performed a selection of new songs including ‘I Tell Lies’, an upbeat Pop/Soul ear worm following the release of her new EP ‘Nowhere to Hide’. The track called for some proper dad dancing, but due to the lack of space on stage she explained that that was for another day. Something to look forward to for next time.
After commenting on her rather large water bottle that was “being swiftly be replaced by a beer once the set is over”, it was time for the closing songs ‘Best Part’ followed by the second song on the EP ’Nervous’. CHARLOTTE; humble, humorous and with buckets of talent. A voice and name are hard to forget, and this won’t be the last you’ll hear of her.
Time for the man himself. It began with the lights low, the room filled with the ominous boom of the speakers and only the glow of a neon sign illuminating the stage. The band took their places, soon followed by Callum as a wave of cheers and screams ensued. Sporting a rather dashing shirt embellished with parrots, it wasn’t just Stewart’s style that got the crowd going. The wee lad from NI bought the moves; his energy was contagious and made for the perfect start to what would be a fantastic night of music. After performing his 2018 track ‘Medicine’, it was time for a quick interlude, and a couple of dad jokes, before introducing the next song. This track was exclusive to Tuesdays show as Stewart revealed he had “finished writing it this morning because I didn’t like it last night”. But that didn’t sway peoples votes on the new upbeat acoustic tune ’Pick Up Your Phone’, due to be released on Friday. The crowd were encouraged to, you guessed it, pick up their phones, record the song and spread the word on social media with one lucky person being chosen to win a tote bag. Not a bad bargain. On the topic of merch, this lead for an excellent segway into a shameless, yet humorous plug for the JC Stewart merch store, where all profits go to the ‘Nandos for JC’ foundation. Judging by how many times the the peri peri paradise appears on Stewarts instagram story, they best be selling those tote bags like hot cakes.
It was agreed mid show the there was to be no encore. Walking off stage only to return to play the remainder of the set was dubbed “a bit weird” and as a replacement Stewart favoured the idea of an on-form pirouette in the middle of the stage. Latest release ’Bones’ was next, followed by something even more special. The crowd was made to split down the middle to accommodate JC and his guitar whilst he performed a covered Cyndi Lauper’s ’Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’. Stewart stood amongst and interacted with the crowd; being without a microphone and band to back him up it made making the performance even more intimate and personal. Easily the highlight of the night. His official cover of the song was released last year, however after hearing it live and being included in the experience it will be hard to go back to listening to the recording. In an industry where fans and artists are becoming more and more distant, it warms my heart to see
The evening came to a close with the 2019 single ’Have You Had Enough Wine’, with an extended ending. As Stewart danced his way off stage, the band consisting of Josh, Jerry and rich kept the mood alive until it was finally time to end. If you missed him at one of these four sold out London dates, you can catch him at London’s Scala in May next year.
Words and Photography by Milly McAlister