Soho’s Borderline is revered as one of the most exciting underground music venues in London. It’s become a rite of passage for any major artist on the cusp of big things, with the likes of Stereophonics, Muse and The 1975 all playing there during their rise to superstardom. It seems only right that this venue plays home to Rhys Lewis tonight, as he continues his upward trajectory, bringing the best of his passionate, gravelly voice and heartfelt soul-inspired songs to the masses.
Before the main act, the sold-out crowd in the misty basement are treated to the recently formed OUTLYA. Lead singer Will Bloomfield powers through a short set with the highlight being their debut track ‘The Light‘. Their repertoire relays a positive message and none more so than on their latest release ‘Higher‘. The song encompasses a series of harmonies, a catchy chorus and fully showcases how tight this band are. If OUTLYA continue to make such passionate, textured songs, it’ll be no time before they’re headlining shows of this size themselves.
As Rhys Lewis’s set time grows closer, the venue becomes increasingly crowded and diversified. The once youthful audience become increasingly older, showing that this singer has the ability to appeal to not only a dedicated adolescent audience, but also to the vast market of older listeners whose listening and purchasing habits are a little more traditional.
For a setlist so dominated with unreleased tracks, the crowd remain energetic throughout. Rhys Lewis‘s songs have a depth and maturity that convey feelings of loss, heartache and devotion. Comparisons to influential artists such as James Taylor and Otis Redding can be easily made, but he manages to add a fresh youthful twist to their classic, soulful style, making his work beautifully compelling.
After an upbeat drum-led opener, Rhys Lewis lets his electric guitar take precedence for songs ‘Lose My Number‘ and ‘Know The Feeling‘, which both channel Paolo Nutini at his most affecting. One of the highlights of the night is the song ‘Keep Me Awake‘ where his impassioned vocals shine like a dazzling ray of light.
As the night draws to a close, Rhys Lewis plays his two latest singles ‘Living In The City‘ and ‘Waking Up Without You‘. These relatable songs strike an instant chord with audiences, as the roused crowd scream the lyrics back at the singer-songwriter.
To put it simply, it’s a gig that surprises and enthralls in equal measure. Rhys Lewis‘s delivery is confident, not cocksure, incorporating his live band in a way that many other singer-songwriters can’t.