It’s a Tuesday evening and I’m stood in the intimate but beautifully endearing Old Market in Hove. A quick glance around me illustrates that, certainly on an age spectrum, this is one of the most diverse crowds I have been a part of.
A huge black and white sci-fi themed cartoon tapestry forms the stage’s backdrop, and an assortment of keyboards, synthesisers, pedals and guitars litter the stage. When Shura takes to the stage at 9:15pm, she is greeted with a surprisingly loud reception considering the intimacy of the gig.
While many may still be unfamiliar with Shura (real name Aleksandra Denton), she has undoubtedly generated a buzz in the past year. The music video for break-out track ‘Touch’ went viral, notable for its presence of her friends kissing each other, irrespective of gender. She has also been propelled through airplay on Radio 1 in addition to being longlisted in the BBC’s Sound of 2015. Born in Moscow and raised in Manchester, she writes, plays, sings and produces her own material. As she fervently swaps from keyboard to guitar throughout the set, at times it’s easy to question what she cannot do.
Musically, she mirrors late-eighties Madonna on her more lively material and Janet Jackson on the shimmering tender ballads. Throughout her forty minute set, she and her three male band members steadily progress through material from her currently untitled forthcoming debut album.
Overall, the evening accentuates that Shura’s forte is her softer side. Her almost-whispered vocals are sugary and gentle, coated in eerie and reverberating effects but aching with sincerity. Each is evocative and compels the audience into a dreamy haze. Fan favourite ‘Touch’ remains a stand-out in the set list. Exuberant with fuzzy synthesisers and encompassing warmth, it’s as charming live as it is on record. Shura beams during its finish as she sneakily samples the riff from Eve and Gwen Stefani’s ‘Let Me Blow Ya Mind’. It’s a reminder of her remarkable musical aptitude and emphasises her eclectic taste in music. Previously unheard ‘Kids N Stuff’ is an introspective and gentle ballad featuring clinking synths, wailing guitars and infinitely reverberating vocals which captivates the audience. The ethereal ‘2Shy’, another of her most popular tracks, is given an alternative live arrangement which evolves into an electrifying climax. Shura grins and there’s an audible cackle as she launches into a phenomenal guitar solo – it’s another moment in which her passion for music is crystal clear.
That’s not to disregard the more up-tempo stuff, however. ‘Indecision’ (Shura’s ‘Holiday’) understandably prompts a rapturous response from the crowd. It’s a fantastically catchy track and Shura at her best. Likewise ‘What Happened’, is an electrifying pop-rock track reminiscent at times of Cyndi Lauper.
As the evening comes to a close, Shura is almost apologetic as she introduces the final song of the evening, the funky ‘White Light’, informing the crowd that she is still writing songs for her album. She needn’t apologise. Her succinct eight song set has captivated the audience and kept them on side all evening.
With more live dates already lined up for next year and the anticipated release of her debut album, it looks like 2016 is set to be an amazing year for Shura.
By Marc Barritt