THE BRITs Critics’ Choice winner for 2016 was Jack Garratt and last night he played to a sell-out Albert Hall in Manchester. Quays News’ very own Nathan Salt was lucky enough to be there for us…

If Garratt thought 2015 was incredible given his numerous awards this year has the potential to be the even better for the singer-songwriter with sell-out tours and festivals set to dominate.

Supported by the vocally sublime Kacy Hill for what was only her second ever tour – nobody in attendance would have known – Garratt brought his unique ‘one man band’ style to a sold-out Peter Street venue.

But before Garratt was free to dazzle, one hour after the doors opened it was time for Hill to alleviate the degree of restlessness that had struck most of the audience.

Hill entered the stage with a keyboard player and a drummer to form what appeared to be a shy and somewhat nervous trio.

Then she began to sing and that timidness proved a front for a voice so brilliant and effervescent.

It was a hauntingly delicate vocal with a strong similarity to that of AURORA or Bo Bruce, only the key difference was Hill’s delicacy balanced out against a sharp drum riff.

Playing songs both from her October EP ‘Bloo’ and also her upcoming album, something that was a real treat for fans of the singer, in what was a six-song set.

Her set included ‘Foreign Fields’ and also an interesting, personal take on Donna Lewis’s ‘I Love You Always Forever’ which encouraged the audience to participate by singing in unison.

Kacy Hill

Couples dominated the venue as well as hopeless romantics, such was the level of public affection, and Hill’s soothing, delicate vocal certainly catered towards a romantic mood.

Special mention for this set, however, must be given to the drummer Valerie Franco for what was one of the most impressive drumming performances Manchester has witnessed in a very long time.

Think of the film ‘Whiplash’ starring Miles Teller and you begin to create a picture of Franco’s sheer commitment to every single note; Franco, arguably, upstaged Hill with an incredibly passionate and intricate performance.

Hill’s Twitter has already been flooded with thank you messages and admissions that those in attendance last night have already purchased her EP.

On just her second ever tour, Hill is going places, that is unquestionable, and even Garratt admitted later in the evening that Hill is incredible.

The anxious wait for the clock to strike 9pm was soon over and Garratt entered his circle of instruments, ready to showcase his talents in his unique ‘one man band’ set-up.

Clad in a Looney Tunes jumper and a snapback, 24-year-old Garratt was ridiculously relaxed and spoke, joked, laughed as if he was with a handful of his friends.

From the off it was evident that Garratt’s set was as much about his strobe lighting display as it was the music.

Entering proceedings in darkness to create a mysterious silhouette only exacerbated the overflowing excitement from the crowd.

Garratt treated the crowd to a 10-song set which included a cover mash-up of Craig David and Justin Timerblake; a shrewd idea to break up the tracks from his debut album ‘Phase’.

He opened with ‘Chemical’ before following on to ‘Breathe Life’ and ‘Weathered’ with the latter providing a rather special moment as he harmonised perfectly with the crowd which appeared to leave him taken aback.

As much as Garratt can deploy a huskiness to his vocal, he equally can showcase a falsetto that, whilst not as strong as others, is solid and a sign of his impressive vocal range.

Alike many performers that grace the city, Garratt was a keen talker in between tracks – almost reminiscent of a stand-up comedian such was his comedic value and timing – and he explained how just over a year ago he played The Castle Hotel, in Manchester, to a crowd of 72 people.

What a difference a year makes.

Other tracks in the set included ‘The Love You’re Given’, ‘Far Cry’ and ‘Fire’ with the latter featuring an astonishing piano solo; Garratt was adept to so many instruments and whilst he appeared a joker – he continued to press the air horn sound effect on one of his many gadgets – he is a serious musician.

Surprise Yourself’ and ‘My House Is Your Home’ towards the final embers of his set placed greater emphasis on his voice and that was a seismic shift. Gone were the heavy overlays and particularly the second track – it was one he added spur of the moment – was a captivatingly powerful and emotive watch.

Whilst the venue had both super fans and the casual listener in attendance, the final song was the one that everyone had been waiting for as ‘Worry’ ended the evening in style.

Preceded by a mesmeric electric guitar solo, Garratt left nothing in his dressing room as all his energy was ploughed into a sheer brilliant closing song.

There was to be no encore but had there been, it would not have matched the sheer intensity evidenced in ‘Worry’.

Everybody was on their feet and it was hard to not give Garratt a standing ovation, one he duly earned over the course of his set.

Many will look at the path James Bay is currently on having won the same BRIT award as Garratt back in 2015. On this performance there is absolutely no reason why Garratt cannot follow suit.

You could say he is a jack of all trades…

By Nathan Salt

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