Alela Diane spellbinds a hushed London crowd

The Californian singer-songwriter concludes her UK tour with a magical performance at St Matthias Church in Stoke Newington

In a dimly lit, centuries-old church, tucked down an unassuming street in North London, Alela Diane concludes her 2022 whistle-stop European tour. Having already played Berlin and Paris, the Nevada City folk singer is flying home to her husband and children the following day.

“Hello London,” she whispers to the sold-out crowd, wrapped in their coats in the pews of St Matthias Church. Refreshingly, there isn’t a phone in sight as she picks up her guitar and starts with an ode from her third album To Be Still, ‘Dry Grass and Shadows’ setting the ethereal tone for the evening.

As she tunes her guitar, Diane tells the audience of writing her latest and eighth album Looking Glass during a storm in Mexico, before unleashing the contradictory upbeat melody of ‘Paloma’ live for the first time. “I wouldn’t be taken aback if the sun gave up and never brought the day,” she sings, reminiscing on how the past few years have felt like the world is imploding. No audible agreement is needed. Diane sits herself at the grand piano and, in between ‘When We Believed’ and ‘Camellia’, gives an arresting rendition of the first single from Looking Glass, ‘Howling Wind’ rising to the rafters of the old church. Her final song on the piano, the melancholy ‘Strawberry Moon’, is dedicated to “All the lost ones”, taken by addiction.

Diane resumes her position centre stage with her guitar for a celestial cover of Fairport Convention’s ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes?,’ before returning to Looking Glass for ‘Of Love’, her accompanying melodic whistles dancing across the nave of the church, exhibiting the real intimacy of this performance.

Alela Diane - Dream A River (Official Music Video)

For the final few songs, she invites her childhood friend Lindsay Clark, who has accompanied her on this tour, to the stage. Clark takes a seat at the piano, and the two harmonise over ‘Ether & Wood’, a poignant song from Diane’s 2018 album about motherhood Cusp. ‘Dream a River’ follows, a song she tells us is about entering her family home two decades later to find very little had changed. Her mother’s hand-painted titles still adorned the kitchen walls, and the rooms were still painted how she had left them some 15 years ago. “I hear her silver bracelets down the hall,” she sings, transporting the audience back with her. She leaves us with ‘Rifles’ from her self-released album The Pirates Gospel, before returning for an encore of ‘Oh! My Mama’. The hushed reverence is replaced by enthusiastic applause, an unanimous celebration of Diane’s magnetic storytelling.