Beatrix Players at Green Note, London - live review

An elegant set from the chamber poppers at Camden's performance cafe

Beatrix Players laughing on stage with guest violinist
(Image: © Kevin Nixon)

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Are the inhabitants of Camden ready for a Friday night of intense, florid chamber pop? Prog should rococo. Beatrix Players don’t have the SOUND Choir accompanying them tonight, as they did at St Pancras Old Church last November. Nevertheless, pianist Jess Kennedy, cellist Amanda Alvarez (both seated) and singer Amy Birks, whose voice does all the moving for her, create a sound as richly textured and smoothly enveloping as the red velvet curtains behind them in this intimate north London space.

Enhanced by violin and double bass, they reduce tonight’s audience to reverent silence, only the occasional whoop breaking the mood. Rushlight is first, all mournful majesty and baroque curlicues, Birks’ sung question, ‘Do you feel it too?’ needing no answer. Never Again, another track from 2017’s Magnified album, is sung by Birks with a slight tremble, her voice a vehicle for doubt and confusion, not virtuosic bombast. The violin bolsters her poignant assertions (‘I will live to outdate this’), making the song sound like a sort of neoclassical I Will Survive.

Ah, but are they prog? Actually, you could imagine Walk Away and the rest being afforded a more grandiose treatment. There are good lyrics, too – tiny suspect devices (‘You will be faced with your own disgrace’) within these seemingly soft, ornate ballads. Suddenly, a line such as ‘I cannot let you walk away’ sounds like a threat: there’s malice in this wonderland.

For Not For The First Time, Kennedy tells the story of the trio’s arrival in the capital, from Australia, Spain and northern England, and their resultant trepidation and isolation. However, as young women in their prime, they don’t quite have the towering gravitas or end-of-life pathos required to make a somewhat supper-club rendition of Trent Reznor-via-Johnny Cash’s Hurt work, and it proves to be the night’s first and only misstep.

Anyway, their own material is more enjoyable and more acutely affecting than the cover, although it’s easy, to paraphrase the lyric to Molehill, to be blinded by hindsight. Elsa, from their debut EP Words In Lemon Juice, has a shadowy longing, the chord changes rarely obvious. Birks is breathless after all that dark, torrid rapture, and has to pause before embarking on All That Thinking’s doleful peak, all piano trills, weeping strings and sombre admissions of despair.

New song The Road To Gordes is searing and soundtrack-worthy, in that order. Ophelia may conjure the mythological, but like all these songs, it’s rooted in everyday fear and loathing.

Finally, there’s the pretty tumult of Roses, for which Birks bangs a drum – it’s the delicate sound of thunder, folks – and an encore of Obey Me, which turns female submissiveness on its head.

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.