Rosehardt, Rozzi, RuthAnne, Ben Browning At It’s A School Night, Monday July 30th 2018
Once again School Night had a lot to offer in one single night, and I went back to Bardot on Monday night to catch the performances of two powerful female performers, Rozzi and RuthAnne, as well as the intimate and moving keys of Rosehard, and the solo effort of Ben Browning, most known as a member of the Australian band Cut Copy.
Rosehardt is a new R&B/hip hop artist who also played Chinatown Summer Nights last Saturday, but since I missed his performance, I was happy to catch him live this time. He played the songs of his debut album, with an interesting title: ‘Songs in the Key of Solitude’, and the music, that he performed alone often sitting in front of synth/keyboard, was combining a multitude of percussive sounds and complex layers, while offering a poignant range of vocal emotions. Rosehardt may be in the hip hop category, but he didn’t do many rap songs, and rather played melancholic soundscapes habited by a real dynamism as if his visible sadness was constantly hit by percussion with weird echoes of deep male voices. There was indeed a great vulnerability in his performance coming up through a throbbing sound and a haunting dimension. His song ‘Bartender’ — a song about spending a winter in NYC… ‘it sucks’ he told us — was a very atmospheric tune, floating in ether and suddenly waking up a noir sax. While his low-key set was all about a rather sad mood, he introduced ‘Wax’ as a rap song about ‘jerking off’, followed by a semi-religious song with wobbling Stevie-Wonder keys … and it’s not difficult to realize that the title of his album is an homage to Stevie Wonder’s 1976 ‘Songs in the Key of Life’. Rosehardt wrote the songs after his father’s death and the end of a relationship, struggling with personal believes, which perfectly echoed in the lyrics of ‘Goddamn’: ‘Mama asked me if I go to church/I said ‘No, Mama’/She said ‘Baby, what would it hurt?’/’It’s too hard, Mama’’ His set was intense and raw, building a very profound ambiance for the beginning of the night.
Rozzi was surely a change of mood as she was a woman with an amazing powerhouse, who arrived on stage like a wind whirl. She was a born-performer, a natural with a great stage confidence and the kind of pipes that bring in mind the great names of the music industry… Adele has some concurrence. She effortlessly sang her pop tunes she was introducing with plenty of humor and once again… professional confidence. It was as if she had been on stage all her life, while the singing parts brought drama, operatic howls and an amazing range, which could go from a soulful Amy Winehouse impression to crazy high arias soaring over her pop songs. It turns out that she was the first artist signed to the label of Adam Levine, who discovered her back in 2012. She even opened for Maroon 5 (at Madison Square Garden), Kelly Clarkson, Gavin Degraw and Owl City, and, in 2016, she parted ways with Levine’s label to be more in control of her own art. And after releasing a single ‘Never Over You’ in February via Small Giant/Columbia Records, she is prepared to release her full-length album this year. Her band and backup singers were accompanying her in a very discreet way, to make her voice shine even more, while her songs had this immediate radio-ready vibe, with her powerful voice rocketing with ease over hooky choruses. And not all the songs were about heartbreaks and breakups, as she introduced one of them as written about the last elections and her anger at the thought that ‘so many women had voted for him’. None of the songs she did (except for the single) have already been released, and whether Rozzi will be the next pop diva is still a question, but I bet her album will be huge as there was not one song that didn’t make the crowd cheer up and scream its genuine appreciation!
The next performer, RuthAnne, was another child prodigy who was singing at karaoke bars as a toddler! Her career started when she was just 17 as she penned many smash hits for famous singers, including Jojo’s ‘Too Little, Too Late’, Britney Spears’ ‘Work Bitch’, One Direction’s ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go’ and ‘No Control,’ Pentatonix’s ‘Misbehavin’,’ Martin Garrix & Bebe Rexha’s ‘In The Name Of Love,’ among others. Whether you are into pop music or not, it’s likely you have heard her work one way or another! These last few years, RuthAnne has been busy co-writing music and lending her voice to many artists, until she released her own solo debut album in 2017. At a very young age, this Irish girl has already made her way in the pop charts through tons of other artists — the songs she has written have streamed over 1.5 billion times on Spotify! — but it’s probably not the same thing when you do it front row. Sitting on a stool, then dancing in front of her band, her set had a strong R&B-meets-soul feel, somewhat ‘90s inspired, while her voice was often revealing some human vulnerability, a wonderful thing in this all-auto-tunes era. Her music could have been described as pop with a lot of soul, while her acrobatic vocals, over a stripped down orchestration, was mixing an old school style with soothing harmonies. She has said to have drawn her inspiration from everyone, from Mariah Carey to Alicia Keys, Alanis Morissette, Destiny’s Child, Brandy, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Carole King… and you could find a bit of all these powerful women in her music. Her song ‘Superman’ was interesting and an honest female voice in this supermen’s world (‘Superman, who’s gonna save your soul, when you ain’t so super anymore?’), while her perhaps most famous tune, ‘The Wow’, a song about unconditional love, has apparently become a favorite at weddings. Her almost a cappella rendition of the song was truly beautiful. RuthAnne may soon become a new house name, she has the voice, the presence and songs with a timeless ambition.
Ben Browning of Cut Copy ended the night with a rather low-key set. If I am not too familiar with Cut Copy’s synth-electro-dance, I don’t think Ben Browning’s solo music was too similar to the upbeat electronica of his band. With a breezy voice and a melancholic vibe, he played a few songs of his debut full-length ‘Turns’, behind his tiny Korg organ and the sonic vibe got very ‘70s pop, bouncy, light and upbeat, navigating between Jon Brion and Paul McCartney. Some songs were sweating a real nostalgia, finding the right notes for his almost-Beatlesque-Brion-esque melodies… Browning even said in an interview that the music was an ‘indulgence’ of Wilson’s material, and when he took an electric guitar to vibrate just a few chords, it became even more real, while a few more songs brought a touch of jazz-funk to a fun dance party.