Gig review: Jesca Hoop at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Jesca Hoop at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds. Picture: Gary BrightbartJesca Hoop at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds. Picture: Gary Brightbart
Jesca Hoop at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds. Picture: Gary Brightbart
Jesca Hoop is the sound of the world tilting almost imperceptibly on its axis.

The California born, Manchester based singer-songwriter is at once familiar and yet unpredictably restless. This means that while the harmonies on ‘Animal Kingdom Chaotic’ and the bluesy tones on ‘City Bird’ are firmly rooted in the experimental folk tradition, they’re imbued with an unconventional strangeness.

It’s this oddness that’s at the root of the material’s appeal. The murder ballad ‘Tulip’, for instance, is a delightful exercise in gothic witchiness – which is in keeping with her crow in Victorian mourning outfit – while ‘Peacemaker’ has a martial drum pattern, and ‘The Kingdom’ underpins a basic fingerpicked guitar with a programmed atmospheric crackle.

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The addition of a three-piece band, where previously she toured solo with a loop station, has allowed the songs to become more traditionally structured.

There nonetheless remains a suspicion that most tracks were written on voice and electric guitar with arrangements scored almost as an afterthought. As such many start solo before whispered percussion or sparse bass-line is added, with only the comparatively conventional ‘The Lost Sky’ and ‘Dig This Record’ sounding like they were composed with a band in mind.

Yet whether performing with her band or solo on ‘The Coming’ – in which she imagines Jesus announcing the end of his reign – her voice is full of character and warm expressiveness. It’s an approachability that extends to her banter, which at one point finds her singing happy birthday to an audience member.

A natural entertainer with a gift for highly individual compositions, she’s been championed throughout her career by the likes of Tom Waits and Elbow. This tour, in support of fourth solo album Memories Are Now, sees her on the cusp of converting that cult appeal into sales.