Playing the cosy upstairs room at Bristol’s The Louisiana has been a rite of passage for up-and-coming bands for many a year, with an abundance of the UK’s, even the world’s, greatest groups tramping their way up the skinny staircase from the innocuous downstairs pub to perform their wares in the upstairs, dimly lit, dream palace. Taking their place tonight within The Louisiana’s cannon of legends are Nottingham’s Vona Vella, as they bowl past the halfway mark of their first ever headline tour of the country.
With their debut self-titled LP freshly released and last year’s magnificent ‘Go Outside Forever’ EP firmly under their belts, the duo have graduated to the point where they not only have more than enough material to captivate a crowd for nearly an hour, their sound has expanded from the breezily delicate acoustic-jazz of their initial releases to an uplifting and energetic, free-form indie, so in order to do their more recent creations justice the twosome, Dan Cunningham and Izzy Davies, have expanded their set up to a full five piece band for this span of ten dates, comprised of bassist Claud, drummer Jake and guitarist/keyboardist Dexter.
First to take the stage is Bath based support act Poppy Rose who performs a beautifully brittle, acoustic set of boldly fragile numbers, bringing the venue to a hush, telling candid tales between tracks of being a star-crossed lover in Berlin (‘Midnight at Boddinstrasse’) and fighting against body dysmorphia (‘I Love My Body’). She ends her set with a surprisingly felicitous version of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s ‘Crazy In Love’.
Vona Vella lead their set with their album’s first single ‘Thought We Were Falling In Love’, showing off the eclectic capabilities of their augmented line-up, with swooning guitars and the principle duo sharing ethereal vocals in front of an attentive crowd including Izzy’s brother, several vocal friends of guitarist Dexter and enthusiastic supporters from across the Welsh border. The choice of songs tonight cascade mainly through the album’s highlights. A divine version of ‘Divine’, starting with a sweet female led solo intro from Davies in the guise of surly 1960s chanteuse, sees the rest of the group kicking in with an easy jazz waltz and after a full gusted performance of ‘Intertwined’ it’s up to Dan to bashfully take the mic and wish Claud a happy 26th birthday to fill a moment as Izzy prepares her second guitar.
‘Telephones’ is preluded by a louche drum roll with Dexter substituting his guitar for the keys and ‘Driving To LA’ gives Dan free reign of the mic again, his husky blues vocals taking us back to the group’s dreamy acoustic roots for a while. As the night draws to an end they recount the story of how ‘Roll Into Forever’, their LP’s final track and the title they gave to the tour, came about: named after a line in a poem Peter Doherty, founder of their label Strap Originals, wrote for them when they signed their record deal, a poem now respectfully framed and hung on their home studio wall. The acoustic rendition of the track compels the audience to fascinated silence, then exploded when the fivesome funk it up on their final song with Izzy and Dan vacating the stage before the end, letting the remaining three freestyle it out, Dexter especially making sure his eminent guitar skills are displayed.
Managing to spark up Bristol with their warmly spirited and beatific suave retro melodies on a Tuesday night, Vona Vella prove themselves the salve for a wound you never knew you had.
Vona Vella are finishing off the final three dates of the ‘Roll Into Forever’ tour so there’s still time to catch them:
Sunday 1st October – YES – Manchester
Monday 2nd October – The Bodega Social Club – Nottingham
Wednesday 4th October – Sebright Arms – London
We’ve included the music video for single ‘Intertwined’ below: