For the launch of Gang Colours‘ debut LP, and one of his first live dates, we’re nestled in the Vortex bar, a small jazz venue with room for about a hundred people. The front half of the room is taken up those small, round, candlelit tables for two that you see at smokey jazz clubs in the movies (back when you could still smoke in smokey jazz clubs). Tonight’s show is sold-out and there’s anticipation in the air.
One of the tables is reserved for Gang Colours’ (aka Will Ozanne) family and before the show Will’s father has his photo taken with Ghostpoet, the rapper who set tonight’s host’s career on the right track by insisting Gilles Peterson commission a Gang Colours remix of one of his releases. Most of the room is taken up by Will’s family and friends, whether they be friends from his home town of Southampton, or his London-based Brownswood Recordings family.
I was expecting this album launch to be a bit muso. A bit nod-sagely-and-rub-your-chin. In fact, this was as low-key and personable as you could get. A real family affair. Lovely.
Gang Colours is great company. He introduces each and every song with a short story, putting what we’re about to hear in context. The largely mournful tones of his debut The Keychain Collection LP, offset against a funny story from a young, polite, pianist is a refreshing juxtaposition. The haunting piano and vocal refrains of I Don’t Want You Calling sound different when introduced with “This goes out to anyone who works in telesales!“.
On stage Gang Colours performs with a grand piano and a selection of synths and laptops scattered around, as well as a fellow performer who helps create a collision of real instruments and electronic wizzardry. The collision works so well, like another show we saw recently. Gang Colours is a seriously gifted pianist too, stroking keys tenderly while contributing the occasional breathy vocal and playing keys on his selection of electronic toys.
Forgive Me, Heavy Petting, On Compton Bay (about holidaying on the Isle of Wight with his family) are all faithfully recreated. Fancy Restaurant gets an airing in the setting it was written for (“though I had in mind there would be steaks on the tables“) and finally Botley In Bloom, about Gang Colours’ pride in his native village of Botley’s regular victory in gardening competitions is lapped up by a crowd as polite and reserved as our host.
It’s a charming evening spent with a charming artist. So much so that his comedy cover of fellow Southampton-dweller Craig David‘s Fill Me In won’t get more than a passing mention. As SGTMT‘s company this evening noted: “well now I’m just thinking about Craig David“. Shame, really, because I don’t think that was the idea.
Gang Colours is back at Vortex on April 5th. This one will sell out quickly too I imagine, so buy your ticket here sharpish. If he asks what your favourite Craig David song is though, that’s your cue to hot foot it home, with your memories of a lovely show preserved.