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Harleighblu at HMV

January 2014

The last gig Harleighblu played in her home city, it was for the launch of her debut album at Nottingham Contemporary and hundreds of people had paid to see her.
Since then she’s had songs played on Radio 1, 2, 6Music and 1Xtra by the likes of Trevor Nelson and Craig Charles.
But yesterday afternoon, it was around 50 who turned out to see her play a free show at the HMV store in the Victoria Centre.
The 22-year-old jazz, soul and funk diva from Carrington, was kicking off a series of weekly gigs there to showcase local music talent, tapping in to the burgeoning local scene that has been led by Jake Bugg but also seen the likes of Dog Is Dead, Indiana, Saint Raymond land major record deals.
Harleighblu (it’s her real name) signed to Tru Thoughts last year, through which the album, Forget me Not, was released in October.
Racks of the album flanked her on the stage to the rear of the shop.
“Come on, move forward, I’m not Beyonce, I need to feel you,” she grins, after opening songs Casanova, a woozy blues number and a funked up version of Eurythmics’ Who’s That Girl.
Those assembled dutifully shuffle closer, although some of us are hampered by Davina McCall’s Body Buff... and another fitness DVD in the obstructive rack called Butt Camp.
Used to a large band with a brass section, this was a new set-up accompanied by just a guitar, bass, backing singer and laptop, designed to inject more of a hip-hop vibe.
“It’s the first time we’ve done it like this so we’re just testing it out,” she says, as a shopper behind tries but then gives up on getting to the wall of posters, obscured by the band.
After trying to encourage some movement from us but failing, she resorts to a more sedate song, the soulful ballad Love Like This.
“You like the slower ones don’t you?” she asks, rhetorically.
There’s a premature finale, Let Me Be, her next single out on January 27. A minute after saying goodbye, she’s back.
“We’re doing one more,” she laughs, but then realises the backing singer has disappeared into the shop.
The closing song is her best, Play Me, one that has drawn comparisons to Amy Winehouse, after which she announces a date at the Rescue Rooms for March 8, the end of a debut headline tour of the UK.
“It’s a weird environment, a little bit more conservative than what I’m used to,” says Harleighblu after.
“I had to work more because of that. People at my gigs are usually on it and well-oiled by the time I come on stage. But with this they seemed to prefer the slower songs.”
“I’ve very proud of her and I like the new set up,” says Harleighblu’s mum, Diane Low, 45, from Grantham, who was there with grandma, Helen Low, 73.
“It’s my kind of music because it comes from her growing up listening to all of my vinyl, people like Isaac Hayes, Aretha Franklin and Marlena Shaw. So it’s beautiful to my ears.”
Mike Atkinson, 51, from The Park saw her at Nottingham Contemporary.
“That was a really big, full sound and this was stripped down and more acoustic. But it shows just how string her songs are that they can be stripped right back to the bare bones and still come through.
“And it was nice to see her relaxed in front of her hometown crowd,” he adds.
“I thought she worked the crowd really well,” says Beth Frisby, 20, from The Arboretum.
“It’s quite a formal setting but she warmed everyone up.”
Rob Maddison, 39, from Sherwood, is a member of local bands Spaceships Are Cool and Yunioshi.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen her with the laptop backing and I thought it was fantastic,” he says.
He’s played similar shows in France where Spaceship Are Cool have a record deal.
“We’ve done shops in Paris and one of them was smaller than the Music Exchange. So, yeah we’d play HMV.”
“It went really well and I’m pleased with the turn-out,” says the store’s social media manager Zoe East who organises the weekly gigs.
“It’s tricky doing it at 4pm because people are still at work so I was happy with the numbers.”
She adds: “We’ve had quite a few people come in store asking about playing.”
Next week it’s Josh Wheatley, with the likes of Oscar Speed, Josh Kemp and Georgia Rose to follow in the coming weeks.
For more about HMV Live follow @HMVNottingham on Twitter.

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