How do you even begin to describe Norma Jean Martine? She has a bit of blues, she has a bit of pop, she has a bit of jazz and even a bit of soul with her velvety-husky vocals wrapped around that sound. In fact, let’s just put Martine in a class of her own. Her songs and lyrics are also something fresh; no wonder she has a list of credentials ranging from Burt Bacharach to Ronan Keating to her name.
My knowledge of Martine came to me about a year ago via a playlist, in the form of a cover of the recently departed George Michael’s Freedom. Fast-forward a year later and I finally got to see her headline her own show at London’s basement bar of the Servant Jazz Quarters. I love this venue. It is small and intimate and always carries a special atmosphere. This was the first of two night’s for Martine – she had to add another one a month after it sold out in a matter of hours.
Opening the first night was Oh Sister in the form of a duo – Sarah Berresford and Sophie Yau – bringing a simple set of electric guitar and a drum machine/sample pad, along with their electro-folk sounds. Their set was mesmerizing and there was hardly a sound to be heard as the audience engaged their ears and got lost in the magic. A complimentary opener for the main act.
Norma Jean Martine then stepped onto the stage following her band of men (Rick on guitar, Chris on bass, Gary on cajon and Eddie on keyboards on certain numbers) and struck with the upbeat single of last year Animals, before heading into Angels On My Shoulders, which she tells us is a song many have requested her for and goes down greatly with the crowd. Multi-talented as she is, she then switched to the guitar for a few numbers and those that have followed Martine for sometime will be familiar with her George Michael cover, sending the crowd into a justifiable frenzy – a perfect tribute.
Martine then switched to the keyboards for a few more numbers, mesmerizing us with those vocals as her fingers glided gently on every single note. The vibe of the audience was electric, which intensified again with No Gold. We were hanging on her every word and it was heartwarming when her encore came in the form of that Bacharach collaboration, during which she welcomed back her keyboardist Eddie and gave us her back-story of I’m Still Here, before bringing the night to a close.
The music of Norma Jean Martine will touch you and her live performances will live here in your soul – a wonderful evening.
Words & Image by Victoria Ling