Thursday 9 July 2009 saw Blessed Souls UK – the monthly showcase night organised by one of the UK’s most hard-working live acts, Adelaide McKenzie – make its City debut. For the first time in its two-year history, last night BS:UK was held in central London, at East Village in the Hox-ditch/Old Street area, known for its abundance of live music events. July’s show was held in conjunction with the launch of soul singer, Noel McKoy’s monthly Platform event; specifically aimed at up and coming singer/songwriters. BS:UK normally runs to the wee small hours of the morning. Transport issues meant I had to bow out before the night was over but from what I saw, McKoy’s Platform show had very much been given a BS:UK makeover.

The ethos of BS:UK is: come one, come all. Unlike many of these so-called open mic nights, where all the acts are actually pre-booked hence negating the term ‘open mic’, Adelaide likes to mix special guests with the brave punter willing to jump on stage. She is determined to give everyone a chance to shine, in particular those just cutting their teeth on the live circuit, in need of some experience and a confidence boost. BS:UK is therefore one of the most democratised showcase nights I have attended so far. You’re as likely to see the exceptional on both ends of the quality spectrum. Adelaide herself will often bless the mic with her uncanny ability to make up entire crowd-pleasing songs on the spot. She is backed by the MAC Band (no, not that one), whose tight performances and soulful jamming make them one of the consistent highlights of BS:UK.

I must admit, I have been to stronger BS:UK shows than the one last night. East Village did not have the cosy, family feel of some of the event’s previous venues. It didn’t help that the layout of EV meant the stage was difficult to see from certain angles or that the sound system was a bit of an apology. The DJ set this month wasn’t up to scratch either. On entrance I was greeted, as expected, by MJ classics but for some reason Mr DJ chose to focus on the late King of Pop’s early ballads. His refusal to go up-tempo did no real favours for the ambiance of the evening. July’s BS:UK crowd were at times curiously subdued. I didn’t get the impression that this particular show had too many lovers of music in general, there to enjoy a good night out. Instead most looked like they had come to see and support a friend’s performance and were not all that willing to engage with the rest of the acts.

Personally, there were few stand-out performances from a rather so-so line-up; these being a cover of Jackson’s ‘You Rock My World’ by GP and Emmanuel – more for its ‘Stars in their Eyes’ appeal than anything else. There was also Sherry Davies and her backing vocalists on the track ‘Ain’t that Love’. Noel McKoy sang an original piece ‘Brighter Day’ from his latest album, with all the passion and feeling of his soul music heroes. To be fair, some of the artists might have made a bigger impression if they weren’t let down by a dodgy sound system and/or technician.

In my gigging experience I have found monthly live music nights inevitably vary from show to show. Maybe the demand of putting on a consistently high quality gig on such a regular basis makes it nigh impossible to always deliver. I have come to realise it is both unfair and unrealistic to expect to be blown away by every act. There is an incredible amount of talent out there but you can’t discover it without sifting through some mediocrity as well. Past BS:UK events have been the first to bring my attention to some of London’s bright stars such as Sarina Leah. I know therefore July’s gig was just one of those occasional off-nights that probably every regular showcase event, anywhere in the world, must have from time to time. Adelaide herself is such a warm, inclusive hostess; her spontaneous and good-natured stage manner means that even if the main line-up isn’t always great, the punter won’t leave feeling cheated.

Review by Tolita x

BS:UK is back next month with not one but two shows on 16 and 28 August in various parts of London. Please visit www.myspace.com/blessedsoulsuk or join the Facebook group for more details.