Proud – February 11th
Tonight Camden’s Proud hosts the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance’s eighth Song Circle. A handful of music students sit in a horseshoe shape in the performance pit, each with their own configuration of guitars and pedalboards. Whether the majority of the people here are course-mates supporting their peers or lucky punters with an inside tip on tonight’s surprise, it’s hard to say. Regardless, the plush booths of Proud, along with the bar and floor space, are dutifully filled with people.
The music offered is restricted as you might expect to stripped-back acoustic pop tracks, with each student given two chances to demonstrate their song writing chops. There’s dabbling in the upbeat but for the most part we are treated to raw contemporary balladry in the vein of Ed Sheeran and John Mayer. These students are still exploring their talent; nonetheless there are effortless studio-ready vocal performances and inventive musical progressions.
Elena Tonra, frontwoman of indie outfit Daughter, sits unassuming at the end of the horseshoe. Unannounced and without fanfare she strikes up a reverb-drenched acoustic version of Candles. In the enclosed space and twilight of Proud the sweet sadness of the track is beguiling, stripped back to its core components. Another round of songs from the students and we’re back for another Daughter track, the final of the evening. Youth, their biggest hit to date, feels big. Elena revels in this intense environment. The performance is effortless yet impossible to ignore. As the final reverberating note decays into silence there isn’t one member of the audience not baying for more material, yet it’s hard to feel short-changed. In what can amount to no more than seven minutes of performance time Elena makes a powerful impression, a lasting emotional impact delivered with subtlety and an understated style.