There is always a moment of cringe and concern when you arrive at an almost empty gig. Extra chairs are laid out to make the room feel less desolate, which seems an impossible feat given the room is sitting in stuffy silence.
There is always a moment of cringe and concern when you arrive at an almost empty gig. Extra chairs are laid out to make the room feel less desolate, which seems an impossible feat given the room is sitting in stuffy silence. But emerging gently onto the stage, Sivu – real name James Page – seems undeterred, calmly clutching his guitar, introducing Lucy on keys and sincerely thanking us for even being there at all.
He starts with ‘Sleep’, immediately showcasing his particular brand of minimalist, dark-toned indie with his impressive, moody falsetto. Next track ‘Communicate’ is just as ethereal and elegant. He is painfully grateful, finishing and introducing each track with repeated, heartfelt thank-you’s.
It is not until the third song, ‘Feel Something’, that the addition of drum machine makes the session livelier. Straying away slightly from his uniquely bleak sound, this borrows more from the likes of Bombay Bicycle club and Alt J; unsurprising, given that he’s supported Bombay and the producer of Alt J’s album also pieced together Sivu’s debut record, Something On High.
The second half of the set has a darker ambience. Sliding guitar creates an eerie sensation in tracks such as ‘God Speaks In Tongues’ and ‘Love Lives In This House’, with haunting harmonies from Lucy. Whether their relationship is purely professional or not, the secret smiles and knowing looks between them as they cleverly weave their instruments together are so personal it made my heart thump. Together they paint a picture of a doomed, nostalgic love story, gently swaying as they immerse themselves in the sound.
Yet, refreshingly, none of the songs are about love; instead we cover tricky topics of religion, loss and loneliness. Explaining the story behind each song, it is clear Sivu has experienced some dark feelings, which only makes the emotionally assaulting lyrics even more winding. A hazy glance around the room sees some tears rolling unapologetically down faces, myself included, as his songs tap into the kind of sadness you try and bury deep. This isn’t typical reach-for-the-tissues blubbing – he’s crafted each track to be far deeper and more intelligent than that, displaying a knowledge of his niche and genre that you would expect from a much more experienced artist.
Magically, this eclipsing combination of stage presence and style has taken the gig from disappointingly hushed to incredibly intimate. Although Sivu jokes that he didn’t expect a Scottish crowd to be so silent, it is because of him that we hear each shuddering breath the crowd draws; he has serenaded a spell upon us, leaving us desperate not to miss a single tortured note. His final and most poignant track, ‘Family Tree’, sees Lucy leave the stage. Despite now playing solo, his performance is even more beautiful. He displays a quiet confidence in himself that belies the endearing awkwardness shown at the start of the show. Sivu’s last humble thank you and happy encouragement to chat post-gig, impresses upon me that he truly does not know the effect he has upon his fans, leaving us to stumble out, stunned and more moved than any of us had anticipated.
Listen to Sivu on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/sivusignals
Watch the video for single Better Man Than He, filmed inside an MRI scanner, on Sivu’s Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/SIVUsignals
Fancy seeing Sivu live? Check out his tour dates and grab a ticket: http://www.songkick.com/artists/2603746-sivu
Want to know more? Check out Sivu’s website: http://sivusivu.co.uk/