Phil Moore reviews Billy Lockett at the Shepherd's Bush Empire
“I’ve had a hectic two months. It’s nice to be home” said Billy Lockett at the beginning of headline gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
Billy and London are now finely good friends. Not only his home for the last few years, but his recent tour support gig to Jeff Lynne’s ELO saw the Northampton-born singer-songwriter play four sold-out nights at the 20,000 capacity 02 Arena.
That sort of exposure is pretty mind-boggling and we should not tire of restating such facts.
It certainly helped build him up to this lofty position of playing 2,000 capacity theatres in his own right. And he’s here to charm the socks off us.
Billy was immediately engaging with his West London audience from the off on Thursday night.
“Did someone mention Acuity? That was my first band when I was 15”, he joked.
Billy’s career began in earnest in 2016, when his headline London shows began selling out.
As a very young solo artist he actually received BBC Radio 1 coverage as far back as 2011 and there must have been some years immediately after that where he felt it would never properly happen for him. But the good will out.
The last time the Chron caught him live it was closer to the Abington home he grew up in, at the Royal Theatre, and we were more than happy to travel 60 miles south to continue our support.
“This is about my girlfriend. I mean ex-girlfriend, whoops,” said Lockett.
It got a laugh, but the song, Alone, is actually one of his most affecting - a desperately sad lament, pining for the recently departed.
Loss and redemption are recurring themes in Lockett’s work.
Hard Act To Follow was again “about another ex-girlfriend”. He knows we can all relate.
The set ran smoothly and handsomely, with Lockett saving his best-loved songs for the end run-in of course. Burn It Down was his break-out song from 2017.
Its emotional resonance clear to all, even without knowing it’s a reaction to his father’s death.
His poppiest moments followed with the finale of Fading Into Grey and My Only Soul greeted with even a little dancing in the aisles.
Confetti cannons were the appropriate response to the denouement of the latter and the simple encore of Empty House, with a sublime melody to crush all foes, left everyone on a high.
We must give a shout out to his fellow Northamptonshire musicians, Alistair Wilkinson on drums, and Jake Crawford on bass, who both keep things chugging along nicely in the shadows.
Leamington Spa guitarist Joe Dolman and Andrea Rocha on cello completed the formidable backline, who lift the songs when needed.
Billy’s debut album promised for later in 2019 can’t come quick enough now he has reached this latest peak.
With a fair wind and some positive reviews where could he finally end up?
It’s an enticing future and we wish him the best. Talent and perseverance are cracking bedfellows after all.
Billy Lockett played:
Thinking About You
Covered in Chaos
Every Time You're High
Who I Am
Hard Act to Follow
Burn it Down
Fading Into Grey
My Only Soul