Originally published in The Edge
If you’re looking to play a show for a few thousand people, London isn’t exactly short on suitable venues – especially on the same weekend that a major festival is under way just a zone away – but none quite compare to the splendour of Somerset House, which has served as another option for around 3,000 since first switching off its fountain to open its once palatial and still resplendent quadrangle to live music in 2001. Like a tasteful boutique version of what is now traditional across town in Hyde Park – think compelling architecture rather than screen-flanking fake trees; simple bars rather than high street staples awkwardly trying not to look like standard food vans – the collection of artists beckoned to headline for a fortnight is as illustrious as it is diverse, this year reaching via Foster The People and Goldfrapp from Norah Jones to Songhoy Blues.
Having turned 22 less than a month before and playing his largest show to date, hometown producer Tom Misch could easily have faltered at the scale of it all, but then again last February he supported Loyle Carner at the 700-capacity Village Underground before headlining the same venue nine months later on a 17-stop tour of the US and Europe. Here, he rose to the occasion with his friends and family in tow for a show as mesmerising as his half-decade portfolio of SoundCloud beats.
From the start, those familiar with Misch’s touring festival show may well have felt far too comfortable. Delicately wielding a guitar until it came time to snarl through the more striking riffs, he took centre stage flanked by those on duty with bass, drums, keyboards, and an ever-revolving mix of violin, a further guitar, and quaint handheld percussion. Even the opening tracks were like-for-like from his trip to Wild Life: the prominent strings of instrumental Beat Tape 2 opener ‘The Journey’ acted as a natural but somewhat incongruously melancholic beginning before Misch voiced a lift in tempo with the house-leaning Bearcubs collaboration ‘Colours Of Freedom’ and a swell of devotion on ‘I Wish,’ taken from 2016’s Reverie EP.
Though talk has often been of Misch working towards an album, it is when he chooses to make an EP by locking himself in a studio for a week that his skills become most blindingly obvious. His music, born of habitual after-school beat making, nods with a charming grin most notably towards jazz, hip-hop, and electronica, and the most recent attempt – mid-March’s 5 Day Mischon – came to life with a stunning live debut. Sometime Rudimental collaborator Will Heard was the first to emerge, showing throughout ‘When You Want To Love’ his distinct combination of phenomenal soul, piercing falsetto, and an unquenchable urge to flail limbs and bop around, both onstage and off. Decorating the raw jam groove of ‘Everybody Get Down,’ Kaidi Akinnibi followed Misch’s sister Laura to become the night’s second special guest saxophonist. Strumming along in the air with clear awe at Misch’s guitar skill from the best perch in the house, grime star Novelist brought heart and fire to ‘Feeling.’ Each may have been conceptualised in a single day in Misch’s flat mere months prior, but here each felt at least as fully realised and passionate as anything else on display. And this is what he does to take a break.
Elsewhere, of Misch’s regular collaborators it was only really the double-booked Carner and Jordan Rakei who couldn’t quite join the immaculate party, stuck playing the Longitude and Farr festivals respectively. Carmody had opened the show with a charming set of her own, which again featured a Misch with Laura on saxophone and backing vocals, before Andreya Triana bridged the gap with a husky display ranging from complex singalong fodder (‘Gold’) to an engrossing solo performance with four-part harmonies delivered via two microphones (a “kind of crazy” ‘A Town Called Obsolete’). Regular tour guests Barney Artist and Sam Wills put in appearances, whilst Zak Abel’s ‘Beautiful Escape’ was so warmly received that he barely registered over the audience at the start, allowing ample time to follow Heard and co. into the proper swing of things.
But Misch didn’t need all this pomp to make an impression. As he announced ‘Sunshine,’ a two-year-old track of carefree glee suited perfectly for the blissful north-of-the-river open air, from over a nearby shoulder came the resounding sentiment of the evening: “I can’t cry, but if I could cry with happiness it would be in this moment.”