Laura Doggett With Support From Alice Jemima

by Rob Scott

“This is my first headline show outside London,” Laura Doggett admited early into her set, an almost unbelievable fact given the attention and excitement her music has recently attracted. Over the past year she’s been on Later… with Jools Holland and The Andrew Marr Show, graced the stages of The Royal Albert Hall and The Globe, as well as supported the likes of Sohn, John Newman, and Years & Years. Plus, had her haunting single Old Faces accompanied the trailer for ITV’s Broadchurch. While she may not be a household name yet, she certainly has the potential to become one as her performance at Cavern proved.

London based duo Ivy & Gold were Laura’s first support act. Although the songs in their short set were relatively similar to each other, Rachel Wilkinson’s voice was captivating, sounding somewhere between Sia and Zola Jesus. The penultimate song was particularly good, with its rising drum beats and cavernous Cocteau Twins-style synths.

Devon local, Alice Jemima, was next to the stage and brought the energy levels down a bit after Ivy & Gold’s pumping set. She fingerpicked on her lushly reverbed guitar and it was undeniably lovely, however her breathy voice made her appear overly twee and cutesy. As she whispered her way through a poppy cover of Blackstreet’s No Diggity, I couldn’t help wondering whether it was all a bit of a gimmick. I’m not sure whether the fact that her recorded version has an incredible 2.5 million hits on Soundcloud confirms or dismisses my suspicion. However, everyone else in the crowd was visibly impressed, so I suspect it’s just me being cynical. There were some moments I really liked, where she sounded like Feist or Vashti Bunyan, albeit a very quiet version.

Due to the intimate ambience of Exeter’s Cavern I wondered whether Laura Doggett would perform with a smaller, stripped back band. However, I was glad to see the stage set up with four multi-instrumentalist musicians playing a range of guitars, two keyboards, bass, cello, and drums. Although she demonstrated with her Jools Holland performance of the single Moonshine that her voice can beautifully suit stripped back arrangements, it is when fronting full layered instrumentation that she sounds most at home. Her songs are often big and triumphant, and consistently emotionally powerful.

Her first song, Phoenix, is unique amongst Laura’s songs for its glitchy electronic quality, sounding not unlike James Blake. It was a perfect opener. The building instrumentation and the metaphor in the lyrics of a phoenix rising from the ashes suitably matched the audience’s sense of anticipation. While Laura’s stage presence may be understated, it is also elegant, and with complete composure.

The performance of her new single Into The Glass was a definite highlight. Debuted last week on BBC Radio 1 by Annie Mac, it has quickly become my favourite of her songs. The spiky, almost yelped vocal melody in the verse, the dark moody synths, and the cleverly simple bass riff all combine to make a great pop song. Likewise, Beautiful Undone, a song I had not heard before, was also so impressive. I look forward to hearing it on her EP which will be released this May. These songs demonstrate that Laura has the potential to stand toe to toe with the likes of Kate Bush, Sinéad O’Connor, and Bjork. She has artfulness and creativity, whilst retaining an irresistible pop appeal; she writes poppy songs that appeal to the average music listener but with a level of sophistication and class to set her above the rest. As the crowd cheered and applauded her final song, Moonshine, it was evident that everyone knew they had witnessed something special. Although this is the first of Laura’s headline tours, it is without a doubt the first of many.

Catch our interview with Laura Doggett here.