Sasha Siem pulls off one of the best gigs of the year, so far
What happens if you mix classically trained musicians, avant-garde leanings, a junkyard orchestra and a will to save the world? You get Sasha Siem. Last night at the Lexington, with her incredibly, scratch that, insanely talented band, she did all that, but more of that in a bit.
As with most gigs, I arrived early. This is down to have been brought up that it’s a crime to arrive anywhere on time, always early. While this has meant that in the past I have been a billy no mates waiting for gigs, films to start and friends to arrive, it does offer a few advantages. Namely you can get a good spot, and you might get to catch a few words with the bands. Only one of these was achieved last night. A got spot was secured.
At 8.30 the support band took to the stage. Last night’s support came from Richard Navarro, a duo from Kent. Richard Navarro played violin, keyboard and sung, sometimes all at the same time, he was accompanied by Nicholas Thruston on double bass. Their songs were a cross between Tim Minchin and Flight of the Conchords. They were filled with surreal imagery/content, but under pinned by melancholy. However it was the composition, and arrangement of the songs that really pulled you in. Navarro either started the song with accapella vocals or, through playing it like a ukulele, a violin riff. This was then looped through pedals and slowly the song was constructed before our eyes and ears. One of the standout songs was called Seabirds.
After 20-30 minutes Navarro and Thruston left the stage to thunderous applause. While they were impressive to watch live, I don’t know how well the songs would translate to an album. Yes it’s the same songs, but without watching Navarro construct them in front of you, it might lose a little something in translation.
Before Sasha Siem took to the stage her band were already there creating an ominous uproar of broody drums, aggressive percussion and a violin pouring out anxiety and unrest. When Siem took the stage it all stopped and the set began.
Opening track So Polite sounded nothing like it did on Siem’s original Gearbox EP. The acoustic instrumentation had been replaced by heavy, almost industrial drumming and percussion, and there was an extra bite in Siem’s voice. The lyric “We’re fine, we don’t mind. We’re all so polite because we want to be liked” sums up the song and her mood perfectly. In between the songs Siem was articulate and gave a brief insight either into the song, or her mood during its creation. Seamy-Side showed that not only does she possess a beautiful voice, but she is also a clever wordsmith. Opening lines “I don’t want another boy on my mind, but there’s another boy in my bed. I’ve made my bed, But I’ve unmade my mind, So now I better lie about it”.
Siem showed she wasn’t just a singer, as she played the cello during a stripped down version of Tug of War. It was one of the highlights of the show. Proof was another crowd favourite. The music swirled around her lilting rising vocals.
Seeing Sasha Siem live gives new meaning to her impressive debut album. The songs continually go one way and then jut another. It’s the musician’s job to try and keep them on track. Throughout the set, violinist Isla Mundell Perkins created maelstrom after maelstrom that matched Siem’s vocals in pitch and intensity.
Given the quality of not only her performance, her debut album, and the new songs showcased, Sahsa Siem won’t be playing in venues like the Lexington for long. I recommend you to check out this unique talent, before she’s playing larger venues with less crowd contact.