Gig review and photos by Dawn
If it were possible to sum up Iko in just two words, those words would be "effortlessly classy".
Unfortunately for those of us trying to convey their brilliance through pixels and type alone, such a phrase doesn’t even scratch the surface of everything the Exeter-based band have to offer.
It’s a tough enough task to describe their music and enduring appeal when reviewing one of their CDs, but when it comes to their live performance there truly are not enough superlatives in the English language to ever be able to do the duo justice.
Tonight’s show in central London is to officially launch the band’s My Hart Canyon record label - but rather than taking place at a typical gig venue, it’s been lovingly arranged at designer furniture store Republic of Fritz Hansen. Iko, you soon learn, live by the motto that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well – and this evening is no exception.
At 7pm, when fellow My Hart Canyon signing Bairbre Anne takes to the stage for a short but impressive set, the room is teeming with people. By the time it’s Iko’s turn there is a noticeable buzz of anticipation. They don’t disappoint.
Opening with the wonderfully simple but instantly spellbinding Waste My Time, it’s immediately evident that frontman Kieran Scragg's distinctive voice is as note-perfect live as it is on record. His seemingly effortless yet gorgeously tender vocals send shivers down spines while Neil Reed's piano melodies accompany Kieran's guitar and begin breaking hearts before the first song has even ended.
Over the course of the evening the duo are joined at various times by Sean Genockey (impressive guitar flourishes), Joel Harries (guitars and backing vocals) and John Hogg (bass) – the trio giving the band’s music the same depth and fullness it achieves on CD – whilst at other times Neil and Kieran confidently demonstrate that their songwriting and performance are just as powerful when they play as a duo.
Over the last year, whilst finishing off their forthcoming album The Victory Hall, Iko have released two EPs. Their stunning title tracks The Lake and Dazed & Confused are both well-received here and lead into the minimalist and utterly beautiful Lightning Bolts – as featured in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and possibly the song which best showcases Kieran’s bewitching vocals. The unreleased Atoms brings a change of tempo and is probably the highlight of the set as both its luscious instrumentation and the smile on Kieran’s face convey the magic of the evening.
And then it’s time for the song which led to Iko’s proudest moment so far – featuring on the soundtrack of one of the biggest movie franchises of all time.
The fact that a single track led to so many people seeking out the band is testament to the strength of their songwriting. Tonight, though, Heart of Stone’s delicate mix of fragility and power seems even more potent than it did when heard on the big screen during the final instalment of the Twilight saga. The word 'heartfelt' is often nothing more than cliché but tonight it’s evident not only from the music but from Kieran’s expressions and gestures that these truly are songs spilled from the heart and crafted as a form of catharsis.
The band delve into their enviable back catalogue for one song only – the wonderful Harpoon – but, understandably, tonight is mostly about the new album. They finish on a high with an impressively enthusiastic and moving crowd singalong to Keynote Speech conducted by Kieran, which then gives him the opportunity to thank everyone for coming, and to smile that grateful and infectious smile once more.
It’s been a long and sometimes frustrating journey for Iko but they’ve stuck to their guns and used their time wisely - honing their craft, quietly increasing their loyal fanbase and refusing to sacrifice their steadfast belief that, eventually, the strength of their songs would be enough to see them through. Thankfully – both for us and for them - their unwavering persistence is at last beginning to pay off.
Perhaps, then, their choice of venue for tonight’s event is more fitting than even they realise – a furniture store whose mission statement talks of "crafting timeless design" and stresses that they "will never compromise quality" seems pretty much perfect for a band who’ve worked tirelessly and never gave up hope that eventually their time would come...
With thanks to Adrian and to Iko. Visit ikomusic.com to buy their music and myhartcanyon.com for more information on Iko and Bairbre Anne. Iko can also be found on Facebook and Twitter at facebook.com/ikoGB and twitter.com/ikomusic.