London – The Waiting Room nests underneath the Three Crowns pub in the drab North London neighbourhood of Stoke Newington. It may not be the smartest part of town but the venue, described as an intimate basement space, was hosting an event where the expectation was decidedly heavenly. For intimate though, read small; indeed a postage stamp of a venue, delineated by rough wood panelling and, oddly, a single white tiled wall. It was certainly a night to get to know your neighbour as the venue was packed with friends, families, and those whose radar was particularly tuned to an intriguing new band.
Whether the band name is any kind of nod to the poetic works of John Milton or not, Paradisia had hinted at a glimpse of heaven simply on the back of a deliciously deconstructed cover of Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark” recently debuted on SoundCloud. A decidedly minimalist website was giving little else away about the trio consisting of lead vocalist Sophie-Rose, harpist Anna, and Kristy on keyboard and vocals; no surnames, let’s keep it intimate. The girls had worked together on a variety of musical projects over the past five years and formed Paradisia only last year.
With a single song the only clue to the band’s sound, there was an air of intrigue among the gathering crowd. But first the supporting act, solo singer-guitarist, Delilah Montagu, had her chance to impress. Rather like Paradisia she was keeping coy and may need to reboot her social media, which still seems rooted in her schooldays. Nonetheless the 17 year-old singer-songwriter harvested a particularly warm response to her confident guitar playing, crystalline vocals, and a set of assured, characterful songs. It would be good to know where to hear more of her. Wink, wink!
By the time Paradisia took the stage, the sold-out signs were up. Augmented by a back line of guitar, bass, and drums, the trio kicked off with the briskly uptempo “Wonderlust.” Sophie-Rose captivated on lead vocals, accentuated with shades of Stevie Nicks, while the punchy rhythms and tightness of the ensemble playing more than nodded to Fleetwood Mac. It was a generous though wholly justifiable comparison, underpinned by a surprisingly superb sound balance. “Keep On Praying” continued the Mac outerwear. The song was marked by a sweet harmony from Kristy, while keyboard swirls and a harp added a touch of the ethereal. The lead singer’s expressive hands added further stagecraft.
A false start on the lush balladry of “Warpaint” was a reminder that this was the band’s very first live gig. Not that this audience was remotely bothered; it was too busy being impressed by the outfit’s classy pop dynamics. A cheer of recognition went up as “Dancing In The Dark” followed with Sophie-Rose taking verse one, before handing the second verse to Kristy, with the back line joining in with tasteful accompaniment. It brought the simplicity of new meaning to a classic song.
From the R&B vibe of “Just Words,” on which Kristy took an adept lead vocal, to Sophie-Rose’s assured high notes on “Heroine,” with its Abba-esque middle 8, and the emotive rise and fall of “Silent Lover,” Paradisia demonstrated a formidable armoury of songs that augur extremely well for the anticipated release of the trio’s debut album, which has already been recorded in Berlin (and hence must be cool). Though, the band’s finest moment was reserved for the finale. “Fears” opened with a lovely circular harp motif that was then taken up by guitar and keyboard. The song built anthemically with thoughtful and measured guitar passages, impassioned vocals, cascades of notes, and soul-stirring melody lines. It got a quite amazing reaction at the end.
“We’ve been together in projects for years, but this feels so right” declared Sophie-Rose, after epic applause. Indeed it did, and you could only conclude that more and more will soon find Paradisia!
Keep tabs on future Paradisia gigs and news of an album via the band’s Facebook page.
Tony’s great passion in life is music and nothing gives him more pleasure than unearthing good, original new music and championing independent musicians. His association with Best New Bands brings great opportunities for this. He also writes for Consequence of Sound and is a judge for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition.
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