When it comes to X-Factor I’ve always liked the first half of the show – I get some kind of sick pleasure from seeing people with bewildering lack of self-awareness. However occasionally, very occasionally, you do see someone who seems genuinely talented, and that’s what happened when I saw Diana Vickers audition for X-Factor in 2008. Just 16 at the time she looked a lot different to the usual desperate wannabes and had a cool demeanor to go with her bare footed bohemian look. After she sung The Blower’s Daughter by Damien Rice I turned to my wife and said that I’d buy her album, something I did in May 2010 when she released Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree. This album went on to become the soundtrack of our holiday that week, and probably my most played album of the last 2 years.
Fast forward to this past week and we set off to London to see her play songs from her upcoming second album in a small club in East London called Cargo. I already knew a couple of songs thanks to Diana making these available via her many social networking channels that she is very active on. In fact these days her main website is a blog hosted on tumblr, here.
Music To Make Boys Cry and Kiss Of A Bullet were actually made available as free downloads while a teaser of Boy In Paris is all we got. Still, you can’t knock free music – it got people talking about her and the reaction from fans was good. From hearing these tracks ahead of the gig I knew I was in for more of an 80s electro-pop evening that Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree would have suggested.
We got to Cargo as doors opened at 7pm, but then realised she wasn’t playing until 9pm. We chose to stay in the bar area, rather than experience 2 hours of a DJ set in the room where the gig was to happen. It was while sitting in the bar, and when not looking worryingly at the show falling outside, that we saw Diana Vickers for the first time. We happened to be sitting a few feet from some friends she came out to see, and so the very slight Diana appeared to us first, chatting to friends about needing to eat and not on stage as we expected.
When it came time for the gig we went next door and took our place relatively near to the stage, which to be fair even people against the back wall were too. There were a fair few hundred people there, and unlike when I’ve taken my wife to McFly gigs, I didn’t feel old. It was an over 18s club so that automatically denied entrance to a seemingly quite large proportion of her potential audience, if her Twitter and Facebook pages are anything to go by. Maybe us oldies just don’t interact on these sites as much.
She came out to rapturous applause and whooping from the crowd and went straight into two songs from her new album. You’ll have to forgive me not remembering all the names as it was the first time I’d heard most of them. What was evident early on is that Diana Vickers has a much bigger voice than I ever realised. On Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree her voice is quite soft, but this gig showed that she can belt out a tune with the best of them. Initially I thought she was a bit nervous, and maybe she was, but when she chatted to the audience, after those first 2 songs, she was confident, charming and very funny, as she regaled us with the story of a phone call she received at 4am telling her that her drummer and guitarist were in prison. No need to worry, they were innocent and were later released – just some high jinx at the Premier Inn apparently, as her choice of hotel reminds us that she’s not some over opinionated diva or factory produced clone, but a young lady trying to make it an industry doing it her way.
The songs kept coming and so did the stories. What was very clear is her new songs, all written by Vickers herself, meant a great deal to her and she was incredibly proud to be playing them to us. There was a definite Europop feel and the songs were a lot more energetic and even rockier than her previous material. The Song that really stood out for me was Lightning Strikes, which has been uploaded to YouTube (not by me – forgot my camera), and for your listening and viewing pleasure is here:
It sounded even better in person, as would be expected. On the last song of the night she actually played trumpet herself, which would probably explain the trumpet imagery on previous t-shirts that she’s designed. It was a fairly short set, probably running less than an hour, but it was memorising from start to finish and every second filled with entertainment, be it music or chat.
I loved Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree so I was looking forward to the gig, but I wasn’t prepared for just how good Diana Vickers was live, and what a complete artist she has become. I’ve seen acts that have been gigging around the world for decades and have had huge international success who didn’t command the stage and endear the audience to the level she did on Thursday night. Without one drop of hyperbole, seeing the Diana Vickers gig was one of of my most favourite live music experiences in 20+ years of going to see bands and artists. It’s left me very excited to hear the new album and I’m already looking forward to the next time I can see her live. While it undeniably gave her a stage, Diana Vickers is not what we’ve come expect from the X-Factor – she’s doing her music in her own style, and succeeding in my opinion.
After I’d published this article I noticed quite a few searches for ‘What songs did Diana Vickers play at Cargo’, and variations thereof. Thanks to Amy over at Diana Vickers Daily I can confirm that the songs she played were as follows:
- Kiss Of A Bullet
- Boy I Met In Paris
- Lightning Strikes
- Dead Heat
- Music To Make Boys Cry
- Love Sounds Better In French
- Mad At Me
Take out Once which was her first and lead single on Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree and we have 9 new songs. Given that her first album was 13 songs, what we saw last Thursday must be around 75% of the new album. So when it does come out, and we have no official word on when that will be, there’s still room to throw in a few extra songs that we haven’t heard yet.