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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Gig review: Fingersnap at The Jazz Café, Sun 20th November 2011

When you go to see a band called Fingersnap the expectations are high. I mean you can’t call yourself that unless you truly make music that inspires your listeners to nod their head, tap their feet and click their fingers to the beat. Thankfully the venue Fingersnap chose was promising. After all, Sunday nights at The Jazz Café were made to be spent undertaking finger-snapping action, it’s the nearest we Londoners can get to the feeling of going to a late-night Southern blues bar, without the airfare. And tonight’s main attraction? One Mr David McAlmont. Formerly known under many guises as one half of numerous duos and as an individual, solo icon, in his own right. His rich, harmonious, hypnotising vocals, poetic lyrics and flamboyant stage presence have long made him one of Britain’s finest performance artists, though for some reason, he is one of the most underrated. 

Last year I had the pleasure of witnessing three extraordinary McAlmont gigs, accompanied by his musical partner Guy Davies – the two of whom have now formed Fingersnap. While David opens up his heart and soul as a writer, Guy creates the music that turns the words in David’s notebooks into masterpieces. 
This was their inaugural London gig; the first live opportunity to showcase the material they have devoted the last year to writing. There was no gentle introduction; the band (David and Guy had a backing trio of a guitarist, drummer and double-bass player), started full swing, straight into Mama Please Don’t Cry, an upbeat, jingly, jangly, catchy, pop song that had David beaming and yes…snapping his fingers. And it was infectious. 

Dressed in a gold and magnolia kaftan with a giant Christmas star tied around his neck, David seemed relaxed, confident and with a fresh zest for life. Yes he’s been away, but this isn’t any old come back; it’s progress.
The second of their offerings was the melodic Some Kind of Nice Beast that Guy led into on the piano, while David clapped to the rhythm. A poignant duet, it made me feel comforted that next year’s album is going to be simply divine. I could already picture myself listening to it in certain scenarios. Is it true about Detroit?, (a blues tinged foot tapping, finger-snapping speciality) is the perfect driving tune, but would sound just as motivational for completing housework to.
The duo also played a series of cover versions, some of which celebrated David’s discography, this time with new arrangements. The vocals in Lose My Faith were shorter, sharper, jazzier and more understated. Similarly Yes was far less operatic vocally, and far more epic on the piano.

Through Fingersnap, David celebrates the complexity and flexibility of his voice. We know he can reach the high notes of Diamonds are Forever and has the charisma to belt out theatrical showbiz numbers, but this was more about improvisation. His vocals were playful and exploratory representing ‘him in the present’, rather than a ‘stage character’. That’s not to say he’s lost any of his charm…he will no doubt always possess stylish diva qualities; it’s just he’s matured.
David covered Amy Winehouse’s Tears Dry On Their Own and dedicated it to her; a singer for whom he shared a great love for, which you can read more about on David’s blog
Then the band moved on to their ‘Fingersnap love song’, which I predict will soon be snapped up by an American movie producer due to it’s soundtracky feeling, which for me, evoked the image of a dancing ballerina inside a snow globe. The Jazz Café’s fairylight backdrop added to the magicalness. The set list also contained the feel-good Kids in the Caribbean, and a multi-genre tune (track 12, I didn’t catch the title!) peppered with influences of rock and disco.
So this was Fingersnap at their very beginning. I’m soo looking forward to seeing how they develop next year. Personally I’d like to hear a few more vocals from Guy as I thought he had an angelic voice, that blended beautifully with David’s. Together may they inject a much needed fresh new spirit into Britain’s currently rather stake, music industry.

Fingersnap’s Smokehouse EP is out now.

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