It seems only a matter of months since I chatted with then 21-year-old Brooke Bentham ahead of her stripped-down performance supporting John Smith at Leeds Howard Assembly rooms. Still virtually unknown outside her native South Shields and adopted home London, whilst about to graduate from Goldsmiths, the world seemingly at her feet, her unassuming demeanour belied the intensity of the live performance, just her fragile yet piercing voice and a guitar.
Fast forward to this evening and the transformation is underway for all to see. Following appearances with a three-price backing band on the BBC Music Introducing Stage during this summer’s Leeds and Reading festivals, she is now backed by the same trio of musicians (bass, keys, drums) for her debut appearance within the shiny new confines Brudenell’s Community Room. There’s also a new 5-track EP ‘Rapture’ unsurprisingly receiving largely favourable reviews, helped in no small way by the fine lead off video for ‘Losing Baby’.
Tonight, Bentham’s attendance is part of the fourth incarnation of the increasingly popular High & Lonesome festival, an expertly curated Brudenell line up celebrating contemporary song writing, also featuring Bentham’s former touring partner John Smith plus a rare appearance by Nashville’s Josh Rouse, providing an ideal opportunity to showcase Brudenell’s new live space.
It’s great to see Brooke not looking out of her depth in this exalted company, certainly not the finished article but heading in the right direction, undoubtedly increasingly confident fronting her band, giving her confessional songs themed around love and loss the oomph they so deserve, despite the odd technical hitch with her guitar. The ode to a doomed romance with a scoundrel, namely ‘I Need Your Body’, stands up well as do the new EP tracks ‘Losing Baby’ ‘If I was Dead’ and particularly the uplifting ‘Have to Be Around You’. The chanteuse then brings things to a fitting close with the Wurlitzer powered groove of ‘Heavy and Ephemeral’, with much more to promise in 2018.
Words - Mike Price