AAs the live music industry cautiously dust off, Union Chapel in north London is fortunate enough to be designed for social distancing: its airy stalls and domed ceiling offer what comes closest to an outdoor experience that you will find in an indoor location. Céleste, meanwhile, is an interior artist, excelling in spaces small enough to preserve her fragility and uneasiness.
As such, the Cavernous Chapel isn’t the soul-jazz singer’s natural home, but here she is anyway, chairing five sold-out evenings. He feels a considerable step outside his comfort zone. The opening words of tonight’s opening song, Ideal Woman, could convey tremendous confidence – “I like to think it’s because I’m too proud?” Too proud, too proud, too loud / Others might say it’s because I’m so tall / But I don’t mind at all ”- but it’s the little things that say it. When she speaks briefly to announce song titles or admit she has stage fright, her voice is tiny; when she moves to the music, it’s from the waist, her feet seemingly glued to the stage. And for every Ideal Woman boss girl on the setlist, there are two who are worried and gnawing at their cuticles. (A quivering son of a father, who ostensibly addresses absent fathers, needs a cry here.)
It looks like she will have to get used to larger rooms. Tickets cost up to £ 360 each at secondary venues, which at least answers a question: Can the 27-year-old Los Angeles-born and raised in Brighton regain the momentum that was building just before Covid? After winning the BBC Sound of 2020 and the Brits Rising Star Award, and stabbing audiences at the UK show live with the eerie ballad Strange, it looked like 2020 would be theirs. The pandemic ended that, forcing the cancellation of a tour and delaying her debut album, Not Your Muse, by several months. But it picks up where it left off. Finally released in January, Not Your Muse hit number 1, and the reaction from adoring fans tonight says Celeste is the right fit to fill a space triangulated by Adele, Amy Winehouse, and Norah Jones.
His performance draws his kapow from his restraint. Equipped with raucous but powerful pipes, she was able to atomize the stained glass above the stage, but only approached it once, on last year’s jazz-funk radio hit Stop This Flame. The audience, separated into “seat shells”, rises as one at this point, and it’s a joyful moment, but that’s the exception for the evening. The hallmark of the show is the stillness and vocal balance that sets Celeste apart from the current intake of young pop singers. The velvety sound backgrounds of its jazz backing band blend discreetly into the background, and there is no benefit to any of this. It’s unashamedly mainstream music, albeit with an emotional weight – the crack in her voice when she sings, on The Promise, “Remember when we slept too much this morning, when our thing went. collapsed? Is deadly real. As a post-containment tonic, it works.