Silence casts a strange spell over The Exchange. As Jesca Hoop mounts her pew in preparation for tonight’s gig, the metaphorical rustle of sweet papers put away blankets her crowd. This awesome concentration continues throughout Hoop’s hour long set, and doubtless follows many home.
From the moment she opens her mouth, we hang on Jesca’s every word. The audience leans back slightly in admiration at the high ranges she hits, and draws in with anticipation at what’s to come. This California born, Manchester based singer songwriter has a presence to fill the heavens, let alone a dusty (new) punk club situated on the borders of Old Market. It’s an odd pairing, but Jesca Hoop transforms and reclaims the space around her.
She’s here to promote the release of her latest record Undress, an acoustic rendition of her 2010 album Hunting My Dress. Several versions introduce her set, among them “Murder of Birds”, “City Bird” and “Four Dreams”. Unexpectedly songs from The House That Jack Built, Kismet and new material also pay a visit. Sung with unbelievable control and performed without the assistance of a backing band, electric tracks like “Born To” and “Hospital (Win Your Love)” are wholly different to their studio output. They’re also not in the least bit challenging. When surprises breakthrough the predictable, it’s like stumbling across this magic gem of a moment. When we interviewed Jesca for Issue 15 we incorrectly surmised that she’d have a hard time recording an acoustic version of The House That Jack Built. We were wrong, and it serves us right for not trusting in her talent.
Hoop also treats her followers to a handful of new songs, provoking rapturous applause that gives away their monumental beauty. Alone on stage she draws closest comparison to a folk artist, and her new tracks play into the image with heartbreaking melody and tails of love and land lost - and Jesus' second coming as an ally of the devil. If news of a forthcoming studio offering hadn’t yet sparked your interest, know now that it will be one of the greatest albums of the decade if tonight’s show is anything to go by. Jesca Hoop has surpassed herself, and she was already a nifty proposition.