Gabrielle Aplin is one of the new breed of YouTube sensations who is trying to make it big in the real world of rock’n’roll. However, it would be a disservice to say that she was just a YouTube sensation, because she has a healthy repertoire of original songs, and seems perfectly at home on a stage in front of a thousand people. Many never make it that far. Aplin has been rewarded for her talent and tenacity with a record deal from Parlophone.
As a graduate of this class of “sisters that are doing it for themselves” she has received a lot of comparisons with her peers. Just last week there was a storm in a teacup on Twitter about her being “just another Birdy” (which is ridiculous, frankly, since a) who the hell is Birdy? and B) Birdy just released an entire album of covers… Birdy is just another everyone else). Aplin is a multi-instrumentalist who looks just as comfortable playing solo as with a big band, and she has a stage presence to put many a Nina Nesbitt to shame.
Her show at Scala on Thursday was sold out in advance, an impressive feat that much better and more established musicians have failed to accomplish. The audience was presumably made up of much of her fanbase, plus a few curious others; in general teens and 20-somethings, who packed the floor and balconies to the brim.
The line-up on the night was to be commended for its sheer quality and also its variety. There were three support acts, starting with the guy whose guitar was “not very good”, Saint Raymond. He played confidently, and was welcomed warmly by the sparse crowd.
As numbers swelled, my personal highlight of the evening took to the stage, Lauren Aquilina. Aquilina is another young musician, sprung into the limelight via YouTube, but three years Aplin’s junior. In fact, she remarked that only four hours ago she had been sitting in a Further Maths lesson at school. Her performance was measured, but interspersed with sheer disbelief at playing to such a full crowd. Her voice excelled at times, filling the venue with a hushed and surprised silence.
Her EP Fools is to be commended… the four-track record, which she only expected her mum to buy, ended up in the Top 10 of the iTunes chart earlier this year. The last support slot went to Josh Osho, who pumped the room with energy with his dynamic stage presence, but then stilled the crowd completely with the love song he never thought he would write, ‘The Clichés’.
Gabrielle Aplin strode onto the stage with purpose, followed by her band and a quartet of strings. Her opening salvo of songs included two from her two most recent EPs, including the delightful ‘Panic Cord’, which was backed by the complement of strings. Also, she played her version of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’, one of the covers for which she is most famed, joined by the crowd for the choruses. ‘Evaporate’ is a fairly new song.
The band left the stage for a couple of quieter numbers, ‘Rings Round Roses’ and ‘How Do You Feel Today?’ delivered delicately and with feeling, on guitar. She then welcomed the band back and moved to the piano for ‘Salvation’ and the song for which she is probably best known, her cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’, a commissioned piece for John Lewis’ Christmas ad. Her voice had been sounding a little tired prior to this song, but here she pulled out all the stops, and with the backing of the strings, put together an excellent version.
Back on the guitar, Aplin launched into the upbeat and catchy song that will be her next single, ‘Please Don’t Say You Love Me’. It tells of being cautious in love, not rushing in: “Please don’t say you love me ’cause I might not say it back.” Closing out her ten-song set with the appropriate ‘November’, she left the stage to hearty applause before rushing back to play the crowd favourite ‘Home’ for her encore.
Words & photography: Paul Woods
Keep Pushing Me
Rings Round Roses
How Do You Feel Today
The Power Of Love
Please Don’t Say You Love Me