The Camden Chapel, where the Irish in London would go to mass and give confession has been transformed into a tiny, intimate concert venue. It’s a repurposing of space that feels very modern – the PA system is situated in the confessional booth at the back of the little room, and the tiny stage is at the front, where the priest would have delivered his sermon.
The room is small, intimate, atmospheric. The Camden Chapel has a minimalist, modern design (think typical Instagram-friendly working space – clean, white walls, green plants, cushions, minimal distractions). A small number of chairs are aligned at the edges of the room, with colourful cushions scattered on the floor for additional seating. There are candles and fairy lights all over the room, and soft, pink lighting creates an atmospheric, cozy vibe.
The nights are organised by Talentbanq, a live music agency, in collaboration with the London Irish Centre. I sat down with Ray Talentbanq Jones before the show, to get the goodies on how this thing started…
So, you’re running the event tonight?
Yes. We came here over a year ago, saw this little room which was an old chapel and we asked them if they’d ever done music there. They hadn’t, and we asked them if we could take it over once a week on a Thursday night and run acoustic music events here. And it’s become so popular that the shows are all selling out.
It’s a cool space! Why here – why Camden?
We just love Camden. Camden has managed to maintain that slightly dirty, bohemian… you know, there’s something so cool about it. It’s great now to be able to give something back and adding something to the fabric of the area.
Camden is the home of live music, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s great to add another really cool venue to the system.
How do you pick the talent you add to Talentbanq?
It’s about personal experience. We get told, “you should go and see XYZ”, and if they’re good enough, then we invite them to join Talentbanq – so it’s a heavily curated selection of musicians. Our ethos as a company is to discover, nurture and promote the best of unsigned talent – people that don’t want to go the TV fame route. People that are willing to do the hard yards and that are wanting to go out and appear in front of an audience.
Joe Slater was headlining the night, with support from the London-based mononymous singer-songwriter, Hope.
As Liverpudlian Joe Slater, fresh from tour, takes to the stage, the intimate nature of the venue allows a special kind of connection between the artist and the audience. His music is a blend of blues, soul, funk and rock with a folksy, stripped-down feel to it. Lyrically, he delivers moving, personal content. His voice reminds me of Freddie Mercury – and especially so when he spontaneously launches into a beautiful, shortened rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. Joe’s greatest asset is his voice – he has excellent vocal command and a strong, powerful voice.
Previous X Factor-hopeful Joe is the biggest artist Talentbanq has in their roster – but his supporting act, Hope, was more my thing, with her incredible stage presence and evocative vocals on the night. Her powerful voice lends itself well to the type of emotional, soul-y songs she performs, aided by her piano. Generally I prefer to hear artists’ original songs rather than covers, but in Hope’s case, something substantial is added to the song. Hope performed an incredible cover of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” and can really hold her own to Alicia Keys’ vocals, which is no small feat!
“I grow a thicker skin, starve you of my oxygen…” (Hope, “Wild”)
Hope’s original songs feature heartfelt, personal lyrics, and the emotion in her voice makes it a very intimate and impressive listening experience.
As the evening comes to an end with a spontaneous jam session between Joe and Hope – Joe showing off his passion for old-school rock’n’roll with a great piano-driven version of “Johnny B. Goode”, and Hope bringing the night to a close with her soulful vocals.
I’m left with the feeling that there’s no wonder the small number of shows at this unique venue sells out. With its modern, cool vibes, Camden Chapel is the ideal spot for your perfect chilled out, mid-week music fix. I know I’ll be back.