I arrived at The Brunswick just after doors had opened and already the venue was half full. By the time the first support Ellie Ford took the the stage, there was only standing room left at the back. The dimly lit lampshades and candles on the tables gave the room an aura of light orange and red. The audience was made up primarily of people of what I’d call parental age (30s-50s) which was good to see as this demographic isn’t usually represented as fully on weeknight gigs. They clearly knew that they were in for a special evening and they were most definitely right.
Ellie Ford is a Brighton-based singer-songwriter who is also a very accomplished harpist. Having already seen her performing a number of support slots including local band Time for T and touring solo songwriter Tom Hickox, Ellie seems to be a popular choice for acoustic gigs and it is clear to see why. Her songs are enchanting, with her guitar and harp parts underpinning her sultry vocals. For an accomplished songwriter, she seems slightly uneasy in between songs, but I am sure that over time she will grow more comfortable under the spotlight, as she should well be.
The second support was Tom Staniford, who performs under the name of Staniford. He is surely used to being the tallest man in the room as his presence towered over the audience, which he broke with a friendly face and some lovely music. He seemed more comfortable engaging with audience, introducing his songs with clarity and performing them with a passion seen in artists such as Bon Iver and Glen Hansard. His guitar songs reminded me a little of Ryan Keen with a certain faint air of Something Corporate in his piano ones, which he played well despite the out of tune piano causing some problems. His lyrics were grounded, my favourite being in the last song which he played unplugged… “Should we play it safe or punch above our weight“. Below is the video for his recent single Elizabeth, a haunting and beautiful track.
After these two wonderful support slots the man of the hour took to the stage, to great applause from the fully packed venue even before he’s picked up his guitar. Dressed in a smart shirt, waistcoated and with and hat and his thick rimmed glasses he looked like a man who meant business. He opened without introducing himself, playing a song that showed off his vocal and guitar abilities immediately. The emotional intensity of his performance was overwhelming even from the start. He appeared to be quite a shy and introverted guy, describing himself as “an emotional chap”, looking visibly moved by the first rapture of applause, which in such an intimate setting was by no means the usual response to a solo singer-songwriter. He humbly thanked the audience for being there and the supports, whom he endorsed enthusiastically. He seemed to have a mismatched confidence to his slightly nervous facade, a confidence grown from a young man finding the thing that he is meant to do and doing it: Jacko Hooper is meant to write and perform music and I, amongst the rest of the audience, am so very glad that he does.
I could go on and on about the performance but I think sometimes simplicity is best so I will try to be concise. I go to a lot of gigs, seeing a vast amount of bands and solo artists at all different stages in their careers, from people playing tiny pub gigs to festival headliners, and I have not been this excited about discovering a solo artist since first stumbling across Ben Howard in 2011. His set is filled with originals as there is no space for covers in it. There was not a single track that I would have dropped from it, no set-fillers or haphazard B-sides, simply a masterclass in songwriting and solo performance, both vocally and instrumentally. Jacko’s voice is full of great grainy textures, from the deep gravelly bottom through the rich middles to the powerful falsetto, which each seem to come to him just as easily as breathing. He seems totally at home on the stage and hopefully with the continued support of his friends, family and supporters he will continue to spend a lot of time there!
Below is my review of his new EP ‘For You‘, which has been over a year in the making and hits like an fine cask-aged whisky, burning straight to the heart.
1. Egg Shells
Starting gently with the acoustic guitar, banjo and subtle female backing vocals, the song builds til the drums enter at the second verse. It stays somewhat contained in the recording, but live the song is given more of a boost with vocal ad libbing, but in its recorded version it is still it is a neatly packaged gem, gentle and sparkling with very moving lyrics: “So you my lover, stay if I can gather all the reasons why I believe that we’re together“.
2. November 5th Song
Again starting gently, this song has a delicacy of a Damien Rice track until the chorus, which is fantastically catchy and simple; this could be easily be a song in the charts right now if marketed in the right way. The vocal is precise and heavy with emotions and will in all likelihood haunt you for weeks after hearing it.
3. Run Away With Me
Just when you think the songs can’t get any more raw, the simple strumming and exposed vocal take it to another level. The chorus reminds me slightly of David Gray’s ‘Sail Away’, not just because of the lyrical similarity but the style of the performance and professionalism of the song. Hints of James Morrison slip into the vocal in places too, which is by no means a bad thing.
Closing the EP, Roaming is a song about travelling and not knowing where you will end up. This is a live recording with just vocals and guitar, doused in just the right amount of reverb to make it sparkle.
The EP is available to buy through itunes here for a meagre £2.49. But take it from me, you will want to catch this guy live soon, because if there is any justice in the world then he will be skyrocketing to the dizzy heights of the world stage sometime very soon!