By James Young
First published in Clash Magazine 20.03.13
If the hair of the lead guitarist is touching the stage lights you know the venue is intimate. The Social is as packed as it is for The Hall of Mirrors, and the atmosphere is great. The venue’s Black Jack club night is all about previewing some of best new music around and they certainly know what they are doing. This four piece is one of those bands that comes along every few years and just has something about them. They tear into the first few numbers of a six song set and singer Jessica Winter’s voice is crystal clear with immense power, reaching out with heart felt lyrics like “Father said I was a lovechild,” and “We play a strangers game.”
The Hall of Mirrors have come direct from hosting their own monthly London residency called Psychedelic Sundays, yet they are not ploughing some sort of flower child retro persona. They are of the moment, it’s like they don’t want to look to the past, and that must be applauded in a scene where you are almost expected to choose your decade – its look and sound – and stay firmly within it. At the moment they are hype free and their gigs are often sold out, attracting a crowd that is there to see a band doing something on their own terms and not letting themselves be defined, or confined, by genres.
It’s a measure of the group that even their following like to stand out from the crowd – the photographer at work in the front row is shooting on film, pausing every few songs to reload, with a few confused people looking on wondering what these strange small black plastic rolls are. No such looking back for The Hall of Mirrors though, the band don’t go in for tired old sounds, instead they weave intricate melodies, with multiple vocal parts that have actually had some thought put into them, and all overlaid with some virtuoso piano playing.
If anything, their relentless gigging and some well placed support slots has brought out a confidence that seems unshakeable, and it is evident in the live sound where you can see a group that know exactly what they are about. The songs are rock solid, vital, and where they really take off is when Winter’s voice soars along with the band, becoming its own instrument and creating something truly special. All this comes together on set closer ‘Bittersweet Love’, this is the highlight of the gig and the crowd is transfixed, as much by a band that is hitting their stride, as by their front woman. The Hall of Mirrors make a venue as small as The Social feel ten times as large, creating soundscapes that don’t go out of control, but instead momentarily make you forget that you are in front of a stage that can barely house the drum kit.
When songwriting this good is mixed with such a strong image let’s hope that low ceilings won’t be troubling The Hall of Mirrors for much longer.