Sam Evian at Oslo, 27/02/24

New York's Sam Evian makes a welcome return to the UK ahead of his new record

Occupying a former railway station in the heart of Hackney, Oslo has been on the frontier of the East London live music migration for a decade now since it opened its doors in 2014. Situated on the top floor and armed with a killer sound system, the 375 capacity gig space is one of London’s best small venues.

On the bill tonight is the long-awaited London return of the mercurial New York based songwriter, Sam Evian, not seen on these shores since a pre-pandemic 2019. Armed with a new album, Plunge, due out in March, and a renewed enthusiasm for live performance outside of his native USA, there is an eager anticipation within the sold-out venue. 

Evian wastes no time debuting the new material, launching into new cut, ‘Why Does It Take So Long’, to big cheers. The new record was self-produced at Flying Cloud, his home and studio in the Catskills Mountains, with contributions from other Upstate New York luminaries like Palehound’s El Kempner and Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker. There is a fresh, loose feel to these new tracks, as in new single, ‘Rollin In’ which gently lilts like the lyrical waves and ends with a beautiful, rippling sax solo. Evian has stated the album is in part a communion with familial history, so this is a lovely touch, the sax being his first childhood instrument. 

Aside from his evocative falsetto, the hallmark of a Sam Evian song is in his exceptional talent for gorgeous melody. His musical influences are manifold: indie, pop, psychedelia; though generally steeped in Americana, moving gracefully from soft rock ‘n’ roll to country and even the soulful funk of Time To Melt’s ‘Knock Knock’. The Beatles and The Beach Boys are baked into this man’s soul, which you can tell from the sheer melodical richness. The band delivers the set with cohesive stylistic aplomb, Evian moving seamlessly from guitar to sax to synth, and the biggest reaction of the night comes with the majestic, ‘Next To You’.

Sam Evian is a sensitive, gentle soul. Eschewing the spotlight, side-on, stage right, he attempts to convey his gratitude between songs with timorous charm, which belies the confidence of the performance. Thankfully the audience is there to coax him along with all the earnest support of an AA meeting. It’s a fitting tribute then that he finishes the initial set with a tearful performance of ‘Cherry Tree’ (the first song he ever wrote, he introduces), the tender beauty of which is a paean to the healing powers of nature. 

The encore opens to a fabulous performance of crowd-pleaser ‘Sleep Easy’ from debut album Premium. He then brings the tempo down with a sing-along cover of Paul Simon’s ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’, before lifting off and closing with a raucous rendition of ‘Easy To Love’. As the crowd disperses into the bracing London night they take the warmth with them; light as the white winter blossoms that flutter across the February streets. 

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