LJF 2016: Eska + Elza Soares

Graham Colombé appreciates Eska's versatile voice and harmonica player but is driven from the Barbican auditorium by excessive volume

These two singers appeared separately either side of the interval and with different accompanists playing, in both cases, electric guitar, bass guitar and drums. I would have hoped that the singers would be in charge of the sound reaching the audience - in particular the volume level and the balance between voice and accompaniment - but this was probably not the case.

Presumably soundchecks had occurred before the performance but, certainly in the first half, there was someone onstage at a mixing board. And that’s the person I would prefer to blame for the excessive volume which I was only able to combat by pushing torn-off pieces of the set-list into my ears. The Soares set was even louder and drove me out into the foyer where a screen allowed me to follow the performance at a tolerable volume level.

Eska is a singer-songwriter with a versatile voice and an appealing range of stage movements. Unfortunately, although she sang in English, the effort required to compete with the volume of her accompanists made the words unintelligible. However she did feature on a couple of songs an excellent harmonica player who for a while reminded me that I was at a jazz festival.

Elza Soares (pictured above right) is aged around 80 years old and performed in a seated position. The songs she sang lacked melodic interest and it was clear that what appealed to the many Brazilians in the audience were the words, which my extremely limited Portuguese was unable to cope with. There was no programme available but if there had been it could have usefully included the English translations of the songs which are apparently available with the recent CD from which they were taken. The band was aggressive and (to repeat myself) absurdly loud and I was baffled that although most of the audience were younger than me (with theoretically more sensitive hearing) their ears apparently didn’t rebel at the decibels hurled towards them.

Overall this was a sad example of singers choosing to, or being forced to, sing at the people rather than to them.

Photo by Stephane Munnier

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