Upon entering The Lemon Tree for one of their Freshly Squeezed Nights, you might be inclined to believe that there is some strange contemporary art exhibition on show as a girl with a tray offers you ice-cream. This actually turns out to be a standard procedure of the venue on certain nights, though the ice-cream is two pounds for a small tub. Shame.
There is a welcoming crowd seated around candlelit tables, a very relaxed atmosphere. Lizabett Russo starts things off with a stripped back acoustic set, accentuated by a beautiful, airy voice that transitions perfectly into the main act. Rozi Plain establishes herself from the first pluck of her guitar string, and you are aware that she and her band are, from a performance standpoint, the real deal.
Between songs, Plain’s stage patter is brilliant. Though she never has to try, she is charming, witty, sweet, with an almost whimsical sense of humour. In fact, if this was a stand-up show, it would be extremely tempting to award ‘5 bombs’, as she keeps the audience constantly chuckling in the moments where other artists would stare at the floor in a dim silence.
However, as the music and the night wears on, it is difficult not to find the mind wandering, contemplating work the next morning, or wondering about the food you have left in your fridge to eat when you get home. The technicality of the musicians and the overall sound quality of the performance remain superb throughout, but compositionally the songs do become slightly repetitive and could benefit with more varied dynamics. While the musicians have clearly designed the songs to exude a cool dreamy aura, this shouldn’t prevent them from bursting with electricity.
Music should be uplifting, it should take you outside of yourself, force you to open up to extreme polarities of emotion, often simultaneously. And though it can be argued as a matter of taste, there is a tiny spark missing tonight – the approving nod of the head to a friend, a realisation that you’re witnessing greatness, the goose bumps. Instead, it turns out to be just a pleasant evening.
Plain is definitely worth seeing at least once if the opportunity arises. You will enjoy it. But whether you will be blown away, or have a compulsion to see this act again, will vary considerably depending on your personal disposition: Are you looking for a nice relaxing evening, a lazy gaze into candlelight without much to think about? Or are you looking for something that goes beyond that, something that tears up your emotions and blows the shredded fragments back in your face?