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The Sound Review: Fun, Music & (not enough) Sushi

By Wills Morgan
The Chain - Kate is singing, and Ben is not. — at Gracelands Cafe.
 
The Chain played at the Gracelands. But who are they? 
 At one point in The Chain’s sensational gig at Acoustic Gracelands, Ben and Kate start to bicker with each other as if they were a married couple fighting over the roles of Thelma and Louise in the UK version of a famous movie. Except both of them want to be Louise. All right
 
Let’s go back to the beginning: it’s 8: 20 on the evening of November 15, last year. I have gone to the Gracelands café to catch the second show in what I believe is the nicest new local venue for live music. Hayley Tucker had the honour of playing the first night, and it turned out to be the best gig she had played all last year. 
 
So here I am for the second show... and The Chain will be playing. But who are they? And why are they called The Chain? As I transcribe and re-edit my notes from a little while back, only one of these questions gets answered. And there is no sushi left…and the first set is just about to begin.
The Chain
The Chain: Ben Parker (voice and guitar) & Kate Aumonier (voice)
'Ooooh Ooooh Ooooh. I saw a ghost walking in the sun….’ That’s how we get started. And later… ’All the ghosts of Soho follow me. I hear the bells are ringing…they never rang for you and me…’
 
Kate Aumonier (voice) is wearing the shortest skirt in the world: with black leggings and a vest. She has jewellery placed discreetly on an arm. Ben Parker (voice and guitar) is more casual, wearing a check shirt, sleeves rolled up: figure-hugging jeans. He’s swinging and stomping in front of a music stand. With a quiff that easily catches the light.
 
Two songs in and they are comfortable. Cue words from a song: ‘I’ll put my best foot forward in this twis-ted game of love…’
 
Kate speaks: Performing without a mike stand is weird. I feel like a bouncer! (But Gracelands is) a lot less smoky than other venues’. A pause, and then she adds: ‘You don’t smell though.’ More lyrics: ‘Those loveless nights…they get to me…taking all my chairs inside…’
The Chain
A couple of the tunes are cover versions. (As a matter of fact, Ben and Kate post their take on the number one pop song in the UK every week on YouTube. It’s a major gimmick that markets The Chain as a cut above your usual adult-oriented rocky-folky types).
 
Kate admits to being nervous about covering ‘Spectrum’. But it’s a really great track and she does it more than justice. Cue Florence and the Machine a la Aumonier: ‘Say my name…and every colour illuminates!’. An optimistic, upbeat song is next. Maybe it’s a trick of the light, but I think that the ratio of women to men at this gig is about 2:1. It’s Ben’s quiff…I am sure it’s the quiff. Cue another lyric: ’Keeping a love for life…’
Can you see Kate's skirt? 'Shut up and enjoy the gig, why don't you?' All right now, don't oppress me. — at Gracelands Cafe.
I am sitting at a table with almost all of Kate’s female friends. One of them wants to try on my hat (a brown derby). Not the first time this has happened. ‘She’s always running, but she gets nowhere at all…’
 
Clare Whytten is her name. ‘I’ve never been to a place where I’ve enjoyed the voices so much’ she says. I find out she has been to the Island to eat just before the first set. Pricey, she says: but she doesn’t mind as long as the food is good. (Clare is not to know that my local pub has only been open for a week after a re-fit).
The Chain
A combination of a venue where you can hear the voices and an audience prepared to do something the late Iris Murdoch called ‘paying attention’ means that everybody really enjoys themselves. ‘I don’t love you like I used to…I love you more…’

Ben Parker introduces another song. ‘This is about the thin line between teenage fantasy and stalking.’ Ah yes. I start to think about General David Petraeus. Cue lyric: ‘Have you seen me? Cause I’ve seen you…’
 
Clare needs another drink. ‘I like your shoes’ she says to me. My shoes are green (t’was a gift from my ex-girlfriend). The Chain plays another cover called Tonight We are Young. Or is it Brighter Than the Sun? I ‘m confused now and it’s Clare’s fault. ‘So let’s set the world on fire…’
 
Two sets, and we are done by 9:50 pm. Cheers, CD plugging and an encore. ‘This is a song about being shit with money’ Ben quiffs. Clare asks me if I am enjoying myself. ‘Hell yes’ is my reply.
 
‘I’ll just close my eyes and hope it all goes away.’ It’s the last lyric to be sung tonight. A hat goes round so that the audience can show their appreciation for live music. And of course, it’s my hat that goes round. 
 
 
Here is an original tune by the Chain: filmed in Harlesden. Don’t forget that they post those cover versions. Ben’s version of the smash hit ‘Gangnam Style’ is nothing short of brilliant. Look for it yourself and check it out. 
 
I ask the attendant photographers to take a shot of Clare before she heads off. And then, all of a sudden… Kate Aumonier has opted for the role of Thelma. Her hair is all the way down. And she is off to the Island for a drink.
 
Photographs are courtesy of Michael East and Kuba Wieczorek.
 
The Chain will play a short set in the great hall at the Natural History Museum on Friday January 25 at 7pm. Free to enter and there will be an actual bar too. It’s part of the Mastercard's 'Lates' concert series. See link here.

Ben and Kate start to record their debut album this week at Church Studios, the place that the Eurhythmics and David Gray built. You can pre-order it too here.

Do check The Chain Music Channell - well worth your time! 

Wills Morgan write on music and other subjects for this internet magazine. He is part of the gang that makes The Island Experiment happen: with photographer Andrija Lekic he wrote ten columns called ’The Island Experimental’. He promotes his own live event for keyboard singers and songwriters called ‘Songs in 88 Keys’.
 
 
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