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8th June 2022

‘Fire’ on Stage: Joesef performs at Gorilla

Soulful, sorrowful, languid, energetic, Joesef brings an Amy Winehouse-esque presence to the stage at Manchester’s Gorilla – a review.
‘Fire’ on Stage: Joesef performs at Gorilla
Joesef. Photo: Isabel Riley @ The Mancunion

Glasgow’s very own Joesef came to Manchester on the 18th of May and saw fans cramming into a sold-out Gorilla. The perfect place for such a soulful set, with the smaller space giving the show a uniquely intimate feel, while simultaneously giving festival vibes due to the absolutely raucous audience. Even though I was at the back for a lot of the gig I still felt close to the stage. 

For those of you who are strangers to his music, think of a softer, perhaps sweeter Amy Winehouse, but by no means less soulful. Recording all his songs in his bedroom, Joesef is widely regarded as “the prince of bedroom pop”. It’s a tough epithet to live up to, but he did not disappoint. His performance made it immediately clear why tickets to his first ever gig sold out before he even released any music. He has such a joyful presence on stage, and clearly such a wonderful relationship with his band. At one point in between songs he stroked the guitarist and bassist’s faces, injecting overwhelmingly feel-good vibes into the crowd.

He’s simultaneously so charismatic and humble, and I’d go as far as to say a little bit bashful at times. His incredulous reaction to the audience’s absolutely raucous response is utterly adorable. He seems like such a sweetheart, and the whole time I couldn’t help thinking my mum would really like him. 

Opening with his latest single ‘It’s Been A Little Heavy Lately’, Joesef sets the tone for the rest of the gig as the performance elicits the loudest screams, whistles and sing-along I’ve ever experienced at a gig. Joesef himself seemed to share this experience, commenting that Manchester was “the loudest of the whole tour”, and on his instagram afterwards that the audience was so loud he “literally couldn’t even hear [him]self”. Given the soft, soulful, and sometimes languid nature of his repertoire, I was not expecting such an energetic environment. I predicted a calmer, more relaxed vibe, with perhaps some swaying and if it were an outside gig, some people waving lighters, but I could not have been more wrong.

Next is a performance of ‘I wonder why’, which usually features Loyle Carner. Making up for the absence of the rapper were the increasingly deafening cheers of the crowd. The song is about “losing someone and going through the motions” of trying to come to grips with loss. While he has admitted that the song can be “pretty heavy to handle” at times, Joesef delivered this heartfelt tune beautifully.

Joesef; Photo: Isabel Riley @ The Mancunion

The tight drums and rhythmic guitar riff of ‘Think That I Don’t Need Your Love’ provoke the loudest cheers yet, which could also be said for the melancholic ‘Play Me Something Nice’ and ‘East End Coast’ which followed. The atmosphere at a gig where every single person knows every single word to every single song is unmatched – the excitement runs through you like electricity.

As the intro to ‘Fire’ starts playing I go a little feral. ‘Fire’ is the first song of his I’d ever heard, and is the gateway to an undying love for one of my new favourite artists. When it came up on my ‘discover weekly’ it was one of those moments when you’re casually listening to music and you have to step away from whatever chore you’re half-arsing to actively listen and let the song move through you. Hearing it live took me back to that glorious feeling of finding new music you know you’ll have on repeat non stop for weeks to come. There will always be some trepidation going to see live music and waiting for your favourite song to come on, anxious to see if it lives up to the much adored studio version. But I am so thrilled to say it was beautifully delivered, and even if the rest of the show had been a flop, this tune alone would have made the whole thing worth it. 

The boisterous beat of ‘Does it Make You Feel Good’ is immediately contrasted by the sorrowful, measured pace of ‘Kerosene’ and the regretful, almost whispered ‘Comedown’. The latter being the song people have “got in touch the most about”, it is definitely one of the most relatable of the set, an admission of “fault and regrets” which most definitely struck a chord with the audience.

The final song before the encore is emotionally charged, confessional ‘The Sun is Up Forever’, which Joseph admits he wrote from both his and his mum’s perspective about “leaving a dark part of your life behind you”, in this case referring to his father. Despite the weighty lyrics, the crowd still sings along with full might until singer and band make a very abrupt exit, which has me worried for a second that it’s already all over, until incessant chants for one more song bring them back to perform the encore, consisting of his soulful cover of Sister Sledge’s Disco hit ‘Thinking of You’ and the soft yet upbeat ‘Loverboy’ which is definitely my new favourite. 

Clearly overwhelmed by the audience’s absolutely raucous response, he jokes that he’s “definitely moving to Manchester”. I think I speak for everyone who squeezed into that sardine tin when I say we cannot wait to have you.  

Joesef, if you’re reading this, thank you. It was an absolute corker. I cannot wait to follow your career as it grows and watch you inevitably graduate from “prince of bedroom pop” to undisputed king.

Isabel Riley

Isabel Riley

@isabelriIey on twitter 🙂

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