When Eliza, the stripped-back, rebranded and redefined songstress that she is, was announced to be hitting the Green Door Store, it felt like one of Brighton’s best-kept secrets.
Because, what with Eliza’s stunningly groovy, A Real Romantic record having only just released at the point that her UK tour was announced, the small, grimy venue was to be filled on an ‘if you know, you know’ basis. However, as the album aged from freshly cut to heavily streamed to critically acclaimed, it was clear that the excitement around Eliza’s Brighton show was to be too much for the humble GDS.
So, on it went to Patterns’ Basement, a venue that even with the likes of Ezra Collective, Henry Wu and Offie Mag’s ISSUE TWO Launch Party having passed through in recent months, hasn’t been as heaving as it was with Eliza on stage. Such a crowd meant that Louis Culture, a soon-to-be superstar from West London’s EMP collective, was afforded the chance to impress a large number of early comers as the support.
His tracks like Local and the recently visualised Culture For 17 provided early highlights of the evening for Offie Mag staffers who were being sheltered from Storm Gareth within the warmth of the seafront venue. It was to be a while before Eliza emerged, the crowd filling and filling as a multi-generational assortment of film camera holding, gigantic smartphone-wielding punters wriggled for the best view of the main event.
Her band emerged first, unassuming and calm as you like, as many faces gawked at them in expectation. Eventually, out she came, and any angst about the wait quickly evaporated thanks to the heat of a sizzling performance from Eliza. Starting where the album does with Game, her performance feels as naturally smooth as the record does, with it apparently being created largely from demos.
Recapturing a unique spark or flow of creativity after it is passed is difficult and even unnatural, as you struggle to free yourself from the rigidity of forced creativity. There was nothing of the sort on this night at Patterns, as one song flowed into another with only the likes of happy birthday messages and random gifts from the front row causing a halt in the show. Albeit a welcome one that you couldn’t take your eyes off. The occasional jazzy breakdown gave Eliza a chance to work the crowd and they largely worked with her, mesmerised as the likes of Mcknasty provided the beat on the drums.
The only track heard not on the album was Jesse James’ Don’t Make Me, the super slow collaboration between the two London artists – once of different worlds when Eliza (Doolittle) was of her pop fame. With JJ’s verses absent, you realise just how much of a tone Eliza’s sumptuous vocals bring to that track.
The fact that Eliza works with such underground rap characters is symbolic of her new persona. Not that this is something new, after working with UK hip-hop’s underbelly gang, Children of the Damned, even before she landed in the UK Top 40.
Her career path has been unique and inspiring, even. Eliza’s truly doing whatever she wants and receiving plaudits for it, be they reviews of her new album or the sound of hundreds screaming her delicate lyrics back at her.