Seated on high-backed wooden chairs like the kings and queens of Narnia in Cair Paravel, Alela Diane and her Wild Divine hold court from the dais at St Pancras Old Church. Flanked by her husband and her father (both called Tom), Diane preaches to the long-converted with sincerity, wit and gentle artistry, and FFS gets to revel in the whole marvellous show.
‘Elijah’ opens up proceedings in suitably devout fashion, and Diane’s proclivity for church performances makes immediate sense. An artist with a firm rooting in country music (her dad clearly approves of what she’s doing, sitting next to her as he is), Diane exudes a calm dignity and owlish wisdom throughout.
‘Tired Feet’, inspired by a stroll around London which merged with one of her more vivid dreamscapes, warms the audience with its associated anecdote, confirming Diane’s respect for our glorious capital.
Plenty of tracks from debut studio album The Pirates Gospel make an appearance, most notably in the granny-channeling ‘Pieces of String’, and the rolling baritones of ‘The Pirate’s Gospel’ itself, all yo-ho-ho-ing, ‘big-bellied whales’, flesh and nails.
All the while, tealights flicker in the alcoves of the church, hands are folded in laps, and the gentle sway of the seated audience (and the standing late-comers who won’t fit on the pews) are the only visual indications that we’re not here for a sermon.
Despair-ridden ‘Love Grows Cold’ is a highlight for FFS – singing about tombs in a church seems almost unbearably apt – then Alela and Dan (the one she’s married to) walk the aisle together to reach the piano that lives at the back of the church. With the happy effect that the back row becomes the front row, the pair give a clear-as-glass rendition of ‘Desire’ to a twisted-round audience, before heading back to their fairytale thrones. And then they blow our socks of with ‘Suzanne’, an eerie, lamentful, darkly countrified version that lights up the church in a way God never could.
Read FFS’s review of Alela’s latest album here.
You can catch Alela Diane & Wild Divine at Village Underground in Shoreditch on 2nd November – more details here.