Live: Communion Launch @ The Cellars, Oxford

Photo: Martyn Leung

Photo: Martyn Leung

Communion, a club night and record label set up by Kevin Jones (formerly of Cherbourg) and Ben Lovett (of Mumford & Sons), was originally intended to promote upcoming musicians in the London circuit. This launch saw its grasps expanding to Oxford through a line up of Sonny Liston, Rozi Plain, Andrew Davie and Pete Roe.

Oxford-based band and newly appointed Oxford Communion residents, Sonny Liston played with an old bassist and a brand new violinist – not that you could tell on the part of either. The sizeable seven-piece’s arrangements were together and new violinist Bryony (not sure if I should be on first name terms, but I didn’t catch her surname) provided some exciting vocal harmonies and violin solos. The band’s energetic performance and rhythmic songs had an impressive majority of the admittedly petite crowd up and dancing by the end of the set. The frontman took a moment to play a demure solo, which broke up the liveliness of the set and had a very different sound from the rest of the band’s tracks. Fortunately, he welcomed his bandmates back to the stage for a sprightly finale that rounded off the set nicely.

Joined by two members of Sleeping States, Rozi Plain provided quite a change of pace from Sonny Liston. Her endearing songs and bashful inter-song chat charmed the crowd. The addition of the two Sleeping States members was a good one. They provided percussion and harmonies, as well as a bass and another guitar that without which I fear the crowd’s chatters would have drowned Rozi’s music. Having said that, when she decided to perform alone she held her own convincingly. Between the solo and the Sleeping States’ track, the set was kept interesting and the trio’s music remained the dictator of the atmosphere.

Andrew Davie is still relatively new as a solo artist, having parted ways with Cherbourg just under than a year ago, and, before the gig, I was yet to be convinced about his ‘going it alone’… ‘The Sun Will Not Come’ was far more folky than I had expected from Davie and told an unsettling tale. It demonstrated that his song-writing abilities are still as keen as ever and whilst it is always a pleasure to hear Davie sing, I was relieved when he acknowledged, “I hope I haven’t been too morbid. I fear I might have been”. Because although his songs captivated everyone in the venue, there were no jaunty or light-hearted numbers to get the crowd really going. Nonetheless, I didn’t find myself lamenting the loss of Cherbourg until Davie had left the stage; a great credit to his solo performance.

I was glad to see Pete Roe headlining, having seen him several times as part of Laura Marling’s band and as a support act on Mumford and Sons’ latest UK tour. I don’t know why it hasn’t happened sooner, since he has all the credentials a great performer should and he demonstrated those at Communion. ‘A Man Like Thee’ gave an insight into Roe’s musical heritage and subsequent style. He told the crowd that his dad taught him the Lancashire folk song when he was young and its gentle and uplifting style is reflected in Roe’s own songs. As the set came to a close, one member of the crowd (and, since there weren’t many of us, we all somewhat awkwardly knew who it was) shouted ‘I’m awestruck’. A good summary of a great night. Hurrah Communion and welcome to Oxford!

Words: Ailsa Roberts