Minnie Birch, Ashley Fields, Lauren Archer, Alice Simpson

An epic weekend that has taken in a Luton Live/s gig, Everything Everything at the Ally Pally, good music, good traffic, much drinking and much laughing concludes, here, at The Bear Club, surely the coolest place in town.

*warning, I’m about to use the word ‘brainchild’*

‘Unplugged Corner’ is the brainchild of Tasha Alice and Kyle Alexander and, thus far, has been the umbrella under which two open mic nights have been operating; one held at the Inn on the Green pub in Harpenden and the other at The Jolly Topers here, in sunny Luton. This is their first foray into promoting a more structured gig, presenting four distinct artists and, luckily for them, The Bear Club is the perfect environment for the stripped down and delicate aesthetic that unplugged music requires.

Opening the night is Alice Simpson accompanied on guitar by the ultra talented Chris Harnett. They make a good team, with Chris’s adept guitar work working well with his partners excellent, Winehouse inflected vocals. Simpson has chosen to sing a mixture of covers and originals and the originals stand up well, even in elevated company. Alice Simpson has a powerful, clear voice with good range and it would be nice to see her play with a more expanded ensemble, something I’m sure she is exploring.

I’m momentarily confused by Lauren Archers logo which has lead me to expect a duo, ‘Lauren and Archer’, to take the stage; but, after all, I am an idiot and it’s simply Lauren Archer herself who sits tentatively behind the grand piano. Like Alice Simpson she has a good voice, which has a little breaking edge to it when pushed which I liked. Musically it’s not as good, with the songs feeling a little repetitive in tone. She’s good and talented, but needs to use the piano in a more dynamic way if she’s to make her mark.

Ashley Fields is up next with his acoustic guitar and he presents us with a set of songs that stay just the right side of generic, tempered as they are by the interesting and intricate passages of guitar work that frequently punctuate the songs. It’s a shame there’s no one around to accompany him on the piano as I think the urgency that could have been injected into the songs would have transformed the set from good to great, but he’s an accomplished performer and holds the crowd to the end.

Lastly, Minnie Birch takes the stage, opening with an almost acappella version of song which sets the tone for the rest of her set which is…hmm, let’s see. Captivating, beautiful, funny, amazing, sad, poignant, fragile, delicate and, er…did I mention captivating? Some artists have the ability to almost suspend time such is the power of their performance; you simply can’t look away because it’s so damn good. It’s a rare talent and Minnie Birch has it. She’s doing all sorts of interesting things like putting Shakespeare to music as well as teaching music in prison which should give you a hint towards what kind of person she is. I advise you track her down when she’s next in town.

And that’s it. A great night and, it’s fair to say, a successful night for ‘Unplugged Corner’. Here’s to the first of many.