Overcoming emotion, Alex had to step off stage for a moment at the packed to the gills Nouveau Casino Friday night. She couldn’t see; her make-up running as she tried to hold back emotions. The Scottish Alex Hepburn grew up in London, and this weekend saw her celebrating the release of her long anticipated debut album, Together Alone. The 26-year old singer is burning up the charts here in Europe with the album clocking in at #2 on iTunes France, just behind Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (preorders at this moment). An extremely impressive debut for a singer with a voice often compared to Janis Joplin or Amy Winehouse. (Though she mentions people say this about her and Winehouse because “It’s just because our parents’ influences are the same.”).
Before getting to the concert, her album Together Alone has had some heavy hitters weighing in behind it. Her single, “Under,” was co-written with Gary Clark (Demi Lovato), while “Pain Is” brought along Linda Perry (Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani). Coupled with that voice, anticipated doesn’t quite capture the three-year lead-up. In interviews, “Under” talks about relationships and how even the one you love can destroy you while “Angelina” brings her deceased father to new life through notes and lyrics. “Get Heavy” treats her, like many of us, rebellious youth (although her mom didn’t mentioned that when she told me the song was made for her Friday night).
The buzz was palpable at Nouveau Casino. Oberkampf and Paris was the most befitting location for the oft-compared to new Adele. Alex spent four years in the south of France and, like many English-speakers who come here, found a French boyfriend for some time. Even in London, her roommate was French. It helped, tremendously, as she was able to “switch” between French and English without any hiccups throughout the entire set, completely charming her public.
With a British guitarist on one side and two backup singers on the other, Hepburn walked out to applause. Ten seconds into “Love to Love You”, her voice instantly set her apart over the bluesy melody. Impressive, and she hadn’t even warmed up yet, was her voice that etched itself into memory instantly. It was coarse with a velvety warmth. Supported by the male and female backup vocalists, one notably nicknamed Hendrix, Hepburn was never overwhelmed by her band, but wonderfully emphasized by them. It came out especially when Nick, the guitarist, lead right into the fiery “Get Heavy”. Easily one of the highlights of the evening, the song was one of the most uptempo moments of her set. It’s telling of where her sound could go in the future now that the debut is out, embracing that bad girl image without being a caricature with that voice that reinforces it.
“Miss Misery” soon followed, a song that should be a single when she makes it to America with the country tinge to the chorus of “Gotta shoot her down…”, emphasizing the Nord Electro 3 that added so much to the soul feel of the night. Though when you’re young in the career, and don’t have too many songs in your roster, you often have to resort to a cover or two. Alex Hepburn did, albeit briefly. Leading right into “Bad Girl”, she dipped back into Cher with “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” subtly highlighting those classic singer comparisons. It was entirely befitting, a call back in time that felt more authentic than Lana Del Rey couldn’t achieve.
Despite the rasp, the bite to her lyrics and her composure on stage, she gave in to emotions halfway through the set, just after the heartfelt “Hold Me”. You could tell the realization of success finally hit the young singer as she confessed, “I’m not crying. I will be soon.” Then, following “Angelina” Alex, wiping her eyes, called for a brief pause, “Sorry guys. My makeup is running-so very professional. I can’t see anything!” Supportive, the crowd waited patiently as she cleared her eyes, joking with her band, “It’s normally his makeup that runs!”
The rest of the evening went straight into her three strong singles leading into and on the album, “Under”, “Pain Is” and “Stop Fucking Around”. The applause didn’t cease and continued through two encores, including “Under” being taken up again. The song felt very P!nk, but balanced between “Broken Record” and “Miss Misery”, Alex Hepburn quickly distinguished herself.
So all in all, is there room for another pop singer? With her voice, coarse and full of character, Friday night proved yes. Alex’s got charisma too, generously being taken by emotions once again as someone gave her a teddy bear with “I heart Alex” and a stuffed animal shark. The audiences loved her, taking advantage of one of the few remaining intimate performances before this recognition starts to take hold beyond iTunes and Europe.
Love to Love You
Bad Girl (Intro)
Stop Fucking Around