Having gained up a lot of airplay from her debut single A Thousand Miles, Vanessa Carlton was noted by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the Top 10 Artists To Watch in 2002. The piano-playing singer/songwriter was also nominated for three Grammy Awards. It is easy to see why Carlton has attracted such a keen capacity crowd tonight.
Making an impressive supporting act was the highly talented Akayzia Parker. Complete with a four piece band, Akayzia displayed her unique soulful vocals with a 30 minute set of songs from the hazy Whispers to the uplifting Urban Lullabies and the slightly heavier, rockier The Sky Is Falling. Each song showed evidence that Akayzia is certainly a gifted songwriter capable of making a well-deserved impact on the live music scene.
Shepherds Bush Empire is an unlikely place to find an acclaimed songwriter like Vanessa Carlton playing, especially with more fitting venues such as the Royal Albert Hall in easy reach. The stage just about has enough space for Vanessa's piano, let alone the rest of her band.
With a haunting violin piece played to build up Vanessa's entrance, she starts with new tracks from her forthcoming album. This includes a moody track called Papa, a song not about her own father but a "different kind of daddy" she assures the audience.
This is followed by songs from her current album such as the catchy, swinging Unsung and the moody Rinse. The jazzy Prince continues to set the bluesy mood for the audience before she confides that the devotion themed Pretty Baby was actually written during her lonely period. This, as she puts it, is "testament to the fact that songwriters are full of shit".
The Tori Amos-sounding Wanted and the melodic Sway prove further that her early years spent playing in smoke infested blues bars to minimal audiences and struggling to record her demo at the age of 17 has deservedly paid off.
A brief introduction is then given about a song that took her six months to write with only her mother and dog as keen listeners. She then introduces the song with excitement as "A Thousand fucking Miles!" as the crowd cheers her on.
Songs following in the set included Ordinary Day, as well as the Rolling Stones' Paint It Black. With the tender and positively-filled Twilight ending the show and a return visit assured, one thing is for sure; Vanessa Carlton has the grace and charisma of a truly gifted songwriter fully capable of creating poetic piano-driven ballads which, when performed live, eclipse even her album releases.
:: Ben Lewis