A review of Jo Harman, a true soul sister.

BBC Radio 2’s playlisted soul singer, Jo Harman, dazzled Spiegeltent listeners in the Canterbury Festival. 

 

Upon entering the host site, I was struck by the magnificence of the ‘Spiegeltent’.  It was brightly painted and the stained-glass windows reminded me of circus tents I’d seen in old films. Spiegel tents are said to have been built in Belgium in the early 20th Century, and are created from wooden beams to make a circular dome. The tents used today are tenderly recreated and travel around Europe hosting different acts or events.

 

As I walked through the mahogany doors I was greeted with a softly lit bar to my left, deep red booths along the outside walls and wooden tables and chairs in the centre. The overall feel of the tent was dark, yet glitzy. Of course, the stage was the focus of the Spiegeltent and sat upon it were bass and lead guitars, a keyboard, a drum kit and a mic. The use of the white lighting allowed the instruments to twinkle patiently, until their musicians played them. It’s easy to say I’ve never seen a set so unique and it most certainly added to the individuality of the act that was to follow.

 

Before Harman entered the stage, we were left to listen to a slow, almost mournful tune played by the lead guitarist whilst the drummer cautiously tapped his cymbal; the intro to the first song we, as an audience, would hear. Harman walked coolly onto stage wearing all black (apart from a pair of bright white trainers), set her drink down before her pianist lead her in with a few chords. The opening song, I later found out was “Silhouettes of You”.

 

 

When hearing Harman’s voice my ears were instantly soothed, her effortless power and tone filled the Spiegeltent. In my mind, I thought how alike Harman’s voice is to Joss Stone’s. Soulful, smooth and skilled. The way the band (and Harman herself) physically showed their appreciation for the music they were creating was quite eye opening. They seemed to be in a world of their own, just jamming out to what they love doing best.

 

 

Throughout the evening Harman showcased her most recent album ‘People We Become’, including the singles: ‘The Reformation’ and ‘When We Were Young’ (which was playlisted by BBC Radio 2). Harman and her band also created their own rendition of the classic soul song, ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’ by The Temptations.

 

When speaking to Jo Harman after the show she mentioned she was always interested in her dad’s record collection when she was younger; “like The Beatles, and The Stones all that kinda stuff and then I discovered Aretha Franklin”. From Harman’s performance in the Spiegeltent you can tell she is influenced by the musical talents she mentions here.

 

I enjoyed the evening fully, however I wish that Harman had introduced herself before singing, so that the audience could really get a feel of what she was like and her background. I had also hoped that the songs were going to be introduced.

 

I like to think I have a broad interest in different music genres, which stereotypically doesn’t fit a student’s description. But I will be stereotypical here: as a student, I don’t go out of my way to go to live music events, and maybe I should? I’ve learnt that live music is so much more emotive compared to listening to a song through a tiny metal device. I know some of my peers might not necessarily listen to this style of music, but Harman (and her band) really did ooze expertise and true rhythm and soul.

 

I strongly suggest trying different genres of music, going to live events and embracing music diversity.

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