To adequately convey the atmosphere of this gig, I think I’ll have to set the scene first. Perhaps there are hardier, more metaphysical critics than me, who can tap into levels of objectivity while assessing the merits of a performance regardless of their surroundings, but I can’t. It’s Tuesday night at Green Door Store (one of Brighton’s most popular venues at the moment), and there’s only about 20-25 people in the audience. The small crowd are very supportive however, and the night passes quite pleasantly…
Nite Jewel opened with a slow-burning cover of Frank Ocean’s Thinkin Bout You, with the male keyboardist singing the verses. His voice is ok but the chorus from Ramona Gonzalez is soaring and smooth enough to do justice to the beautiful Ocean original. It was certainly a nice touch to cover a great song from the astounding Channel Orange album, but it did also show how weak Romana’s own songs often were in comparison.
The set then started properly with This Story from recent album One Second of Love and the sound was great; the drums for example were a loud and punchy mix of live drumming and an electronic drumkit. The synths were warm and her voice is sweet with a good range. Another member of the band alternated between bass and six string guitar which helped to keep things varied; some songs groovier and bassier, some sharper with clangs of guitar.
Her later material is more dancey than her older stuff and her big single One Second of Love was sung with gusto, along with an infectious New Order-like synth line bouncing along and a more Roxy Music style synth for the chorus. What a shame then that the crowd was made up of undancing critics like myself, a few photographers, and awkward quiet English folk. Where are the loud obnoxious girls or brutish drunken louts singing along when you need them? Where are the irritating drugged up Bez-imitators or the loved up overly tactile couples? Who knew that it could ever be possible to want these people at a gig?
Ramona handled it all admirably though, staying committed to the quality of the sound throughout the gig by asking things of the sound technicians, and saying (seemingly sincerely) that Brighton was the best city in England. The songs were mostly a little repetitive and unremarkable, but there were some lovely melodic moments and some enjoyable gems in the set too. The performance wasn’t convincing enough to warrant a bigger crowd for future dates perhaps, but it was occasionally fun and interesting, and maybe some placements of her songs in indie films or TV shows might create a less awkward environment for her to perform in next time.
Words: Joe Fuller