Hope Sandoval is wonderfully talented but equally shy and reclusive, leading to playing far fewer concerts than I am sure she could attract audiences to. Her shyness is reflected in the arrangements of the performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank. There is a screen at the back of the stage on to which looped films are projected during songs, presumably to divert attention away from the singer; vignettes of musical energy are played between songs, removing the feeling of having to communicate with the audience whilst also relieving any sense of awkward silence; even the stage lighting is subdued, barely illuminating the band. Yet the performance itself is uncompromised, full of warmth and emotion, perhaps because of the considerations made.
The projections on to the screen are manually controlled and changed, and consist of two projectors overlaying images on to the single screen. The operator dynamically changes the visual mixes as the music surges and wanes, offering not a distraction but an accompaniment. The musical interludes between songs serve to keep the audience, as much as the band, from becoming uncomfortable in any silences, keeping us in the moment of the concert. And the songs performed by Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions are why we are here, some extended and augmented from the studio recordings and all sounding vivid and beautiful.
Most of the songs played are from the second and current album, Through the Devil Softly, including Wild Roses and Blue Bird. The acoustics of the hall and live performance of the band bring a fabulous energy to Trouble in particular. Both Thinking Like That and There's a Willow are quickly becoming personal favourites of mine, making them a delight to hear tonight. And I get shivers hearing the opening notes of one my favourite songs, not just of the band but from my entire collection, as Charlotte makes an appearance from debut album Bavarian Fruit Bread. Also played from the first album is the dreamy Suzanne.
The set ends with an extended version of For the Rest of Your Life, a massive crescendo of sound that effortlessly pulls the audience with it before releasing us all back in to the melody. Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions leave the stage to enthusiastic applause, and despite some people making a rush for the exit the applause continues until the band reappear several minutes later. We are treated not only to two more songs but also a demure 'thank you' from Hope as she comes back on stage. The encore finishes with Feeling of Gaze from the first album, another song made more powerful from a live arrangement. It has been a wonderful evening in the company of Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions, a rare opportunity to hear the band's beautiful music in a live performance.