The Verse’s Alex Berdugo reviews JP Cooper at Concorde 2 on 18th October 2017.
It had been a year since I had previously seen JP Cooper at The Haunt, and the progress I witnessed after this short time was astounding. Cooper and his band took to the stage relaxed and ready, opening the show with We Were Raised Under Grey Skies. The sombre tone of the song was beautifully complemented by the iridescent lighting that cast the band in a soft glow. Although Cooper does not have backing-singers live – whereas he does in the studio version on many of his tracks – his voice was stunning from the very start and to mask it with other vocals would be a crime.
As the set continued, it was clear that Cooper and his band were no longer content with being a stripped-back acoustic band like they were in the past. The music was in your face, had a thumping rhythm and created a feeling of euphoria in the crowd. The bassist and the drummer’s cohesion was truly a marvel, while the funky guitar tone gave the chart singles a distinct danceability. The guitarist was also given the opportunity to have his own moments in the limelight, screaming guitar solos present at multiple points in the set.
A highlight would have to be the album track Change. There was an upbeat, disco-like feel when played live. The whole band came together as a single, solid force and the exceptional light show treated us to numerous yet calculated flashes of vibrant colour. It wasn’t uncommon to witness the bass player’s fingers flying across the fretboard in a blaze of musical passion, or hear a melodic lead guitar line under the vocals.
Cooper himself was a treat for the ears. It would be safe to say that his voice is even better live than in studio recordings, its unique power and rasp an invaluable asset to his gigs. He would regularly be swapping between an acoustic guitar and telecasters throughout, bringing various dynamics to the sound of the band. Cooper would also interact with the audience with quirky comments and meaningful stories behind his songs. At one point, he performed an unexpected but enthusiastically welcomed cover of John Lennon’s Jealous Guy. This really took the gig to a new level, especially when the band seamlessly transitioned into the hit single Wait. This was performed impeccably, its sparkling guitar riff combined with the soaring vocals made it one of the evening’s many breath-taking moments.
All in all, JP Cooper and his musicians in tow were unstoppable. They played every hit from their back catalogue to the present-day tunes, pleasing even the most diehard fans. Cooper took the modest Concorde 2 and made it feel like an enormous venue, demonstrating his seasoned professionalism and love for the music he played. I would highly recommend catching JP Cooper next time he is in town, he never fails to put on a top-class performance.