Coming straight off of back-to-back weekends at Coachella in California, UK singer-songwriter Frances rallied last night for an intimate show at NYC's Mercury Lounge. This was my first time at this venue and when I walked into the narrow dive bar that lead to a backroom with a small stage, I figured it would be a small and relaxed show. But it takes a raw, authentic performer to captivate such a small audience the way Frances did during her short forty-odd minute set last night.
The only thing on stage was a black piano and subtle blue and pink backlight. Frances walked onto stage wearing an oversized, black blouse and black leggings, hair up in a ponytail as she laughed and said, "This is a nice surprise. Didn't know it was such a party." Everyone cheered as she immediately went into her first song "When It Comes To Us" off her first EP Grow
. She had no backing band, she was armed solely with her piano. Once she finished her opening song, the reaction of the crowd made it seem like there were four times the amount of people in the room. She joked about how New Yorkers are so vocal compared to the expressionless faces she receives from her shows back in London.
She continued with a single called "Cloud 9" off her forthcoming album, which will be released in the summer or fall of this year. It's a very rare occasion to go to a show where your view isn't blocked by a wall of smart phones recording every bit of a performance. But Frances mesmerized the crowd so intensely during every song that there was a complete silence in the room - no chattering or whispering, no mid-song cheering, no phone distractions - only the piano chords and her smooth, flawless vocals. I was pleasantly surprised at how Frances would show her down-to-earth and hilarious personality in between songs and didn't fail to make the whole room laugh with her. She'd pick fun at herself after saying quirky words like "niggly bits" and before she performed "Borrowed Time," she went on about her friend and co-producer for that track, Disclosure's Howard Lawrence, calling him "groovy" and "much cooler" than her.
She continued the set playing "Grow," "Last Word," "Say It Again" (which was written by the same guy who wrote Adele's "Hello"), and a new track off her upcoming album, "Don't Worry About Me." Frances continued to put in the effort to connect with the audience by telling stories and laughing in between songs, making us feel like a group of old friends. After announcing that "Let It Out" will be the last song of her set, the crowd let out one long "booooo!" in unison as one lone fan shouted "This is my song!" When she finished, Frances made an announcement that she wanted to meet each one of us so she walked down off the stage and started giving out hugs. After Frances gave me a squeeze like we met in a past life, she made a few jokes about her performance and thanked me for coming. Frances is a raw talent that comes too few and far between these days and she puts on one hell of a performance. 2016 is definitely the year for Frances.