11 Oct 2016

Meilyr Jones @ The Village Underground (live review)

Meilyr Jones, celestial baroque-pop deity, captivated the minds of the masses as he stormed through one of the most beautiful performances that will ever bless the walls of the Village Underground. Off the back of his critically acclaimed debut 2013, on which Jones channelled the pain of the break up of his last band Race Horses into a phoenix of classical-tinted art pop, the Welshman has played a series of dates up and down the country, bringing juicy trumpet motifs and bounding harpsichord to the people of Britain.


Tonight, Meilyr’s bringing his band of merry men to the capital – an abandoned tube station in downtown Shoreditch. Lights (and bloody impressives ones at that) switch on, and to the barnstorming opener – How To Recognise A Work Of Art, 2013’s most unashamed pop moment – Meilyr pranced on to the stage like a rare eudocra clad in a red turtleneck and bright red leather trousers (like in the music video). “I saw a picture of you with Teresa May”, the songsmith sings, unable to keep a straight face at his own lyrical alteration for a left wing audience in that London but still sounding like an angel.

After blasting through the lead single, Meilyr gallops off stage, disappears as his band play an extended intro to Passionate Friend, and reappears. But lo and behold, he’s undergone a costume change. What’s this? A costume change? At a small li’l alt-pop night after one song? You better bet so sister. Now bedecked in high waisted black trousers, he hollers a particularly dramatic performance of Passionate Friend, followed by a version of Don Juan that featured his own a capella fill in place of the flute which ornamentally flutters so endearingly on the record.

Show highlight came when Strange Emotional kicks to life with an overwhelming sample of Rebel Rebel, which is repeated in the extended middle 8 – normally a quaint pop curiosity – as it takes flight with unexpected blares of feedback. Meilyr’s onstage movement becomes more and more animalistic, he’s like a frenzied ‘bok escaping capture from a pride of lions, keeping his elegance and composure as he moves around the stage with so much energy and passion. A rare beast to observe, he remains a treasure to behold the entire set, creating such a magnetic persona on stage that you’re only taken away from the mysticism of his art momentarily as he addresses the crowd in his Welsh brogue.

The show closes with a particularly cinematic version of Featured Artist, and an encore of a completely new song, before the Welsh troubador finishes the set with Be Soft, the final track from 2013. For this, the sound is completely turned off, and Meilyr – alongside a violinist and a trumpetist – sings without the aid of any sound equipment at all – his luscious voice fills the Village Underground without the aid of any microphone, somehow sounding even more beautiful than when it was echoing atop his band’s beautiful melodies earlier in the set. Absolutely breathtaking, the crowd are taken aback by the Welsh enigma, and his unparalleled powers as an artist. It’s difficult to even have a frame of reference for him, quite simply, especially tonight, on a rainy night in Shoreditch, Meilyr Jones is one of the most captivating live artists in the world today, genuinely bringing retro to its logical conclusion in the most beautiful way imaginable.

Words and photos: Cal Cashin
Full gallery below. Words originally for The Wave