Oh Wonder, Rukhsana Merrise at Tut’s, 21/11/15

Escaping a typically dreich November evening in Glasgow, I was somewhat taken aback to find King Tut’s packed to the rafters and completely buzzing.

Preconceived notions of a laid back, mellow kind of a night were thrown to the wayside, as I realised I’d massively underestimated the hype surrounding London-based alt-pop duo Oh Wonder.

 

Rukhsana Merrise

Support from West-London singer-songwriter Rukhsana Merrise set the tone, with the crowd fully on board before we’d even reached the first chorus.

Merrise, who supported Communion Music label-mates Bear’s Den at Oran Mor back in February, has since honed her live performance, with percussion and easy banter making welcome new additions.

Capitalising on her instant rapport with the audience, Merrise’s bluesy, soulful take on The Weeknd’s ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ was a surprising early highlight.

Merrise goes on to perform a number of tracks from debut EP September Songs, with chirpy, lilting ‘So They Say’ in particular showcasing the artist’s unique vocal.

Oh Wonder3

Comprised of Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West, Oh Wonder opted for a novel (and potentially risky) approach to releasing their debut album.

Breaking with tradition, they instead chose to drip-feed their ever growing fan-base one track each month for a year via SoundCloud.

The risk has evidently paid off, but, as a result, this is the first time that the band have played live together; a fact incongruous with their polished performance.

Opening track ‘Live Wire’ quickly allays my concerns that the album’s intentionally monotone style might not translate so successfully to a live performance.

The self-titled debut (released in its entirety in September) never strays far from a carefully considered formula of impeccably harmonised vocals, piano laden instrumental and just a touch of ambient electronica.

In contrast, performing live gives Oh Wonder the necessary scope to mix it up a little, lending unexpected and welcome depth to the set.

After a quick change of instruments, delicate ‘All We Do’ proves that sometimes less is indeed more, gently wooing the crowd with its understated, repeated lyrics and piano sequences.

‘Midnight Moon’ again breaks the record’s mould, as Vander Gucht and West take turns to sing solo for the first, and only, time during the set.

By this point the loved up, and slightly overzealous, crowd had joined in, bursting into the chorus just a wee touch early, and leading Vander Gucht to joke “we’re not at that part yet”.

Arguably the band’s most mainstream track, ‘Drive’, provides a timely change of pace.

Here classic pop sensibilities are juxtaposed with a tongue in cheek dig at popular music.

Taylor Swift and Sia in particular come under fire, with lyrics “same songs with the same old rhymes, telling me to shake it off and swing from the lights,” a less than subtle jibe.

It is further ironic that, despite the light and fluffy pop instrumental, ‘Drive’ is in fact a fairly bitter and angry breakup track; a perhaps unusual choice, given that the duo are romantically involved.

The band doesn’t do encores, instead opting to incorporate extra track ‘The Rain’ into their set.

Featuring a synthed-up sample melody, that gives more than a nod to the musical ‘Singing in the Rain’, the tune manages to remain on the acceptably hip side of novel.

Closing with easy-listening and soporific ‘Technicolour Beat’, Oh Wonder leave the Tut’s crowd with a warm and fuzzy glow.

It is testament to this feel-good factor that, despite being a completely cynical bugger, I even forgave the band for their finger snapping!

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Words: Kat McNicol
Photos: Sophie Morrison

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