It’s been a while since I went to this gig but due to technical problems I haven’t been able to share the review with you until now. It was too good for me not to tell you about it though, so here it is – at last.
Rita Payne and Lucy Spraggan, The Leadmill, Sheffield, 30 August 2012
It is an early Thursday night and anticipation is growing in the close to packed out classic Sheffield club where Muse and Coldplay once shared the stage. Less than one week ago, Lucy Spraggan wowed the great British public with her X Factor audition and although she’s played several Sheffield venues this summer alone, the turnout has never been even half this big.
Having previously in vain chased support slots for venues like The Leadmill, Lucy looks bewildered when she first steps on stage to introduce her very own support act this evening; Rita Payne.
The Doncaster duo, who are friends of Lucy’s and have played with her before, look equally flattered at the amount of people who have gathered in the venue. But then the band has after all only been around for a few months.
As said, they look flattered and yet very cool. (Prior to the show, female half Rhiannon has told me she’d be “glamming up” for the gig and sure enough she is looking stunning in red lipstick and rockabilly hair.)
Rhiannon Scutt plays the guitar whilst Pete Sowerby takes on the lead vocals and so the stylish two begin their set of dreamy, clever folk pop. And although a support-slot for a newly hyped TV star is hard to fill, they do a good job of it. Using their voices, a guitar and a few rhythmic instruments alone the two create musical magic as their soft harmonies fill the air. Country music influences are often interwoven into the painstaking tunes labelled “acoustic nu folk” and “Ashes” becomes a personal favourite of mine.
Their set is stripped back but it doesn’t mean they lack musical talent. Openly gay Rhiannon studied music at Leeds University and between the two of them they play ten (!) instruments.
On stage with Rita Payne is a bag that at first serves as pretty decor but that towards the end of the gig gets its own use as a drum, a cute detail that makes the band extra memorable.
As is often the case with warm up acts, Rita Payne don’t get half the appreciation they deserve. Although polite, the crowd gets impatient towards the end of their set and I hear one teenage boy complaining that he thinks all their songs sound the same.
What could possibly be wrong with his ears, I don’t know.
A lengthy break later, Lucy Spraggan steps on stage. Five minutes in the limelight of the UK’s greatest talent show has proven to be all she needed to acquire a hoard of teenage fan girls and the audience goes wild.
Wearing beige chinos and a denim shirt, Lucy plays what can already be described as her Greatest Hits including clever YouTube comedy sensations “Jeremy Kyle” and “Facebook”. Neither of the songs appeared on the album that was pulled from iTunes earlier this week yet the crowd knows every word.
After many loud laughs to her many witty lines, the mood swiftly changes as Lucy plays soon to be mega hit “Tea And Toast”. Telling the story of a man collapsing in front of her as she sits busking in the streets, her eyes fill up and Lucy seems genuinely close to tears despite having played the song many, many times before.
It is clear that she’ll go on to move many a viewer in the X Factor episodes to come.
Rounding off the show, Lucy brings out her camera phone to snap a picture of the crowd.
“This is the best night of my life,” she says.
Once Lucy’s off stage the queue for autographs is long with many fans sporting the #beerfear t-shirt being sold for a pretty steep £10. The hype has only just begun.
Stepping out into the chilly late summer night outside the venue, I imagine I feel a bit like those leaving a Muse and Coldplay gig here twelve years ago must have felt. Like I’ve had a glimpse of very great things to come.