Alexander Teller @Camden Barfly 26/02/2014
In the classic 1960s film ‘Blowup’, the main character, a fashion photographer (played by cult actor David Hemmings), states to a mysterious woman he meets, ‘You ever do any modelling? Fashion stuff, I mean. You’ve got IT.’ Well seeing Alexander Teller live, certainly left me feeling like Hemmings, because this line shot to the foreground in my mind and proceeded to haunt the rest of my evening.
Just who is exactly is this guy who has IT? Well, being a huge Jeff Buckley fan, my ears immediately pricked up when listening (as always) to Tom Robison’s Fresh on The Net Mixtape on 6 Music. Alexander’s track ‘The Clockface’ featured on a recent edition and it seriously intrigued me with its unusual (i.e. not boring) lyrics and impressive falsettos! Soon I found myself tracking the man down to the Camden Barfly for a weekday support slot. Like all, slightly pretentious, music geeks, I was initially quite ready to write off the young troubadour. For he sported a Buckley crop circa ‘Mystery White Boy’ and appeared to be entirely decked out in Urban Outfitters’ finest. But boy can inexplicable ‘hipster jealously’ fade fast because Teller turned out to be an absolutely extraordinary performer. Sporting the sort of voice that countless singer-songwriters desperately attempt to replicate with studio trickery and creative sound engineering live, the crowd were almost instantly spellbound. It was the result of that unmistakable and insanely rare quality that only a truly natural vocal performer can produce. In fact Teller’s voice at times was almost TOO good, with the PA in the Barfly revealing some signs of strain despite the best efforts from the mixing desk. Supported by an able group of backing musicians, Teller’s songs felt fully formed, and I was almost struck down with shock when one of his fans later told me by the bar that this was his debut gig! It is a testament to his immense skill that as the set progressed, his confidence was matched note for note with a perfectly executed delivery.
Like all great artist’s Teller’s sound is unique and difficult to pin down with lazy comparisons. The first song in the set, ‘Like a Dog’, carried the air of Buckley and Rufus Wainwrights influences but in later tracks, such as ‘Worn Down, Worn Out’, electronic arrangements and flourishes appeared seamlessly integrated. The highlight of the set was arguably the excellent ‘The Ritual’, a catchy slice of shoegaze brilliance that had the crowd all swooning in time.
I can count the number of gigs of ‘up and coming artists’ where the act has exceeded the expectation heaped on them on one hand, and Alexander Teller is now one of them. He completely blind-sided me, well beyond the initial intrigue and rapidly turned the entire audience into putty. This guy has IT and this review almost certainly won’t be last you hear of him this year.
1. Like a Dog
2. No Awards
3. Worn Down, Worn Out
4. The Ritual
5. The Clockface