Venue: Pure Groove Date: 19/08/09 Review by Robert Haughton On a summery evening at Pure Groove, one that seems a blessing recently and comes replete with Pimms and a cloudless sky, there is a pastoral feeling to the string duo accompanying Theoretical Girl. Dressing the set with fabric bunting and themselves with summery dresses, the trio created a garden party scene of the fringes of the city. Promoting her debut album Divided (Memphis Industries) there is no mistaking that we have a glimpse of great things to come from Southend solo artist Amy Turnnidge. During the build up to the gig I, along with other early comers, were witness to the grace of a modest artist. Some slight miscommunications regarding gig timings were easily ironed out and Amy compromised to make sure her start time was fair for all involved, apologising and joking with many of us to pass the time and making us comfortable. A communal atmosphere was made better with a rogue microphone stand, intent on moving to every position but the one we needed. With tape and the ingenious application of a satchel counter balance we were ready to begin, everyone sharing a sense of "no matter what, we shall prevail." Although none prevailed more so than Amy on this eight song set. Theoretical Girl constantly shifts the paradigms of her performances, sometimes going alone on guitar or accompanied by a full band. The only constant in her experimental attitude is her elegant fashion sense and International Velvet gaze. The Pure Groove gig was a subtle affair. Taking some of the more synthesised songs of the album and softening them with classical counterpoints from Anna Jenkins and Jo Silverston on violin and cello respectively, adding a chamber music tint to delicate piano arpeggios from Amy. The strings dynamics and high/low ranges provided a richness to the small ensemble, playing in unison on Rivals to create swelling crescendos suggesting an underlying pathos to Amy’s lyrics. At other points, the strings syncopated and diverged to treat us to some virtuous classical ornamentation and filling songs like Good Timing with serenity. The complexities from the string section were not the only show of great craftsmanship. Amy provided a stunningly emotive performance, both on piano and vocals. The use of the piano presented a rich tone with excellent sustained chords and expression. Cleverly working with the strings to provide a sweet palette of timbres to accompany her voice. Theoretical Girl conveys a swooning and laconic tone with her voice: She may say little but it speaks directly to us. Her songs are extremely personal without being exclusive and her delicate breathy style curiously lends a defiant strength to otherwise submissive songs like Seeing You Again and the titular Divided. Lyrically I couldn’t help but notice that Theoretical Girl dabbles in cliché, which although reaching out to most involved can lose some emotional effect. With such artists as Kate Nash and Regina Spektor weaving exceptionally absurd metaphor into their lyrics it would be a damning criticism to any other songwriter. Luckily for her fans, Turnbridge’s composition skills and wistful voice deepen the emotional impact and grounds any cliché to a gritty reality before it can take flight. On stage she shows that she desires a lot more from her music than the usual fame and fortune shtick of other artists that plague the record companies, not to mention our ears. Through audience participation (we chose the next single, I’m proud to report) and compliments towards our decorum (I heard independently that some other gigs didn’t offer the rapt attention that she rightly deserves), people can tell that Turnnidge loves her audience and the opportunity to entertain them. Even though she is a personal songwriter there wasn’t a time when this felt cathartic for her. By all appearances she desired only to let us enjoy the performance, enfolding us in her world. As I said, this was a communal affair. The only thing I desired from this eight-song gig was a ninth song, and I’m sure if she allowed me that I would ask for ten.