Review: Billie Marten and Isaac Gracie at EartH, 26/11/2018

Fast-rising star Isaac Gracie ended his latest UK tour at Hackney’s Evolutionary Arts Hackney (EartH) with the sort of performance that suggests he could one day fill venues twice the size.

It was strange seeing Billie Marten, still just 19, as the support act, such has been the traction she has gained over the past few years.

In a way, the supporting role seemed to suit her, and she appeared entirely relaxed as she rolled out a gorgeous array of new tracks all brought to life with that fragile, crystalline voice.

While I thought I’d arrived in time for her 8:00pm start, I entered the hall at 19:58 to find her already underway. Whether I missed them or whether older tracks including ‘Bird’ and ‘Unaware’ did not make the setlist, I do not know. But then again, what she did sing was as utterly mesmerising and captivating as everything else she has produced in her career.

Having first seen the now 23-year-old Isaac Gracie in the BBC Introducing tent at Glastonbury in 2016 and then again during a short slot at Citadel Festival this summer, it’s been intriguing to see how this introverted, melancholic performer was growing into being the headline act.

From the first beat of his set, it’s clear Gracie is developing with every show. While the talent has been there from his very first demo, the Norfolk-born frontman is slowly learning what it takes to carry a whole show.

There are enough punchy numbers mixed in with the melancholy to keep the set moving at a brisk pace, and he switches up the songs well so that it never gets dull.

The recently-rebranded EartH (formerly Hackney Arts Centre) is building an impressive reputation on the back of nights like these, hosting promising young acts surely destined for greater heights.

The cavernous hall makes for a remarkable venue. While the paint on the walls is peeling, cracked or in some places entirely absent, the ceiling is adorned with the most intricate designs. The headliner had little problems making it his own immediately.

Since Glastonbury, the songs have got louder, the stage presence bolder and the potential even more obvious for all to see.

He happily spoke up between songs, passing comment on his vintage shop-acquired outfit with the sort of wry observation that is increasingly present in his songwriting.

One of his earliest songs, ‘Running On Empty’, has developed with him, going from tender ballad to roaring stadium anthem.

For all his rapid development, ‘Last Word’ remains as evocative as it did back in 2016, and Gracie made the capacity crowd wait until the very last moment of his encore to enjoy it.

The most exciting thing about seeing Gracie live was the thought of what he might be like in another two years.

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