LivePLAY: Active Child, XOYO London, 14/10/13

IMG_3084This week marks our first themed week on PressPLAY, and we’re very happy to be dedicating the opener to Active Child. Kicking off with a live review of his London gig, below, we’ll be following this up with a review of the new Rapor EP and a quick chat with the man himself later in the week. Of course, we’re now fervently hoping none of the above is shit, because it’d be well bad form to slag off the act you’re highlighting for a week… But on we go.

As a dozen members from the London Contemporary Voices choir huddle on to the tiny XOYO stage, it’s hard not to feel a bit nervous for Pat Grossi. Does our favourite ginge since Geri Halliwell run the risk of being lost in a sea of choristers? After all, he is armed with just a harp and his voice.

We’ve pretty much answered our own question there, because Active Child can do more with just those two things than most do with a truckload of production and an entire orchestra. There are very few people who can silence a grotty East London cavern with merely a stringed instrument. As soon as Grossi begins on the title track to his first record, You Are All I See, there’s a reverential silence that’s usually reserved for religious experiences. But given Grossi choral leanings and ethereal renditions – punctuated by a great deal of plucking – this isn’t perhaps too far removed from one of his live shows.

It’s also at this point that our fears about LCV are assuaged. A doff of the cap to them and to Grossi for arrangements that are beyond criticism; the choir soar and dip as required, buttressing the Active Child vibe so ably that you want him to start taking them everywhere. Take, for example, the glorious Hanging On. It’s a song we all know. It’s a song everyone in the audience knew. But the treatment given to it tonight was like no version we’d ever heard, voices rising towards the end as furiously as the lump in our throat. It’s a privilege everyone ought to experience in their lifetime.

And, damn him, Grossi makes it look so easy. On record, his range (and that trademark falsetto) are unfathomably adroit.  In person, that shift from high to low is jaw-dropping. Even after the choir leave and Grossi abandons his harp for the brilliant new Rapor material, none of the depth is lost. The shift in sound, the stomping synth-pop vibe, all translates perfectly and – dare we say it – could be Active Child’s crossover moment.

If none of the above fails to move you, stick around for Silhouette in the encore – it’s the Rapor track that features Ellie Goulding (presumably missing on account of lording it up at the X-Factor), but the LCV substitute does no disservice to the decimating duet. It’s the perfect end for what we’ve just witnessed: eyes watering, hairs stood on end for about an hour, we can’t recommend this enough as a live experience.