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Josephine Bush Hall live review

Newcomer enraptures gig-goers in West London.


From the opening bars of I Think It Was Love, miniature Mancunian songstress Josephine captivated all at Bush Hall, as the audience wilfully surrendered to her soothing tones.

Armed with only her guitar and a voice sweeter than caramel, featuring occasional accompaniment in the lofty form of a man named Steve, the soulful singer expertly performed a selection of self-penned songs.

Since the age of twelve, Josephine Oniyama has been busy finding her stylistic feet and flourishing into an undeniably gifted musician. Now that her career has finally taken off, she exudes an infectious sense of glee as a self-assured stage presence and is clearly a naturally confident performer, an attitude entirely justified.

A wide range of influences, including her colourful West African culture and icon Joni Mitchell, are key to Josephine’s song writing, but possibly the most prevalent of these is her cherished Cheetham Hill childhood, to which she devotes an entire song. The measured expression of lyrical content proves powerfully relevant on a personal level; a rare quality in a world dominated by shallow subject matter and auto tune.

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Non-album track Salt Lake is a moving ode to lost love that is likely to resonate with most and after a much celebrated live performance on Later…with Jools Holland, album title track Portrait received an enthusiastic response from her adoring crowd.

Set in the charmingly modest historical setting of Bush Hall, a multipurpose venue which has itself been subject to a number of cosmetic overhauls throughout its life, it seemed fitting that the vocalist should perform A Freak A, a track praising the act of putting on a brave face to defy your critics.

The singer/songwriter is a self-confessed chatterbox and engaged in light banter with the audience between songs. A particular highlight of this interaction was her reference to ‘following Paloma Faith around the country’, specifying that she was supporting and not stalking her.

A true testament to Josephine’s natural ability is the fact that she can effortlessly project ballads like Original Love to the back of a room with perfect pronunciation without making your ears bleed. There’s no bravado or hot air here; just an utterly timeless talent.

To pigeonhole Josephine as just another soul singer would be tragically ignorant, for she is a revelation.

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