Live Review: Bianca James – Strongroom Bar, London 17.10.2023

Don Blanford

Pop music is a fickle force. For every Amy Winehouse or Adele that has soaked up acclaim and amassed millions of record sales, there’s also a Candie Payne or Gemma Ray – respected and talented artists who probably still worry about the mortgage rate.

Welcome, then Bianca James. The Canadian songstress – with English and Italian heritage – brings her cool pop grooves to this showcase Shoreditch gig. Having gained hipster kudos by winning the Amazing Radio audience poll at the end of the summer Bianca slips comfortably into the London scene.

It may be a breezy October night outside but inside we’re about to jump on the back of a Vespa to take a Roman holiday with Bianca. Those familiar with her eponymous debut expect slick, soulful pop.

Bianca invites us to “come along for the ride” as the hooks of Monaco stride in like stilettos strutting down the boulevard. Bianca tells us, “I’m gonna walk the streets like I own the place…”. As clear and refreshing as an azure sky, it’s a self-assured statement of intent. Throw open the shutters and embrace life – Bianca’s arrived!

Bianca thanks the London crowd for getting out on a cold night and makes it very clear she really LOVES being in London, then there are nods to Diana Ross and a Motown vibe on Inside Out. The mood changes with Black & Blue. A lemon grove of bitterness filtered through Bianca’s sunny shades. It’s inspired, Bianca says, by being with someone you know is too damaging for you and you realise you have to leave.

After the espresso start there’s the comedown. I’m sure few had pencilled in Bianca as a rock balladeer but that’s exactly what she is as Made To Love crashes in and she reveals greater versatility than her sassiness has so far suggested.

The finale of this, her London showcase set, is the infectious pop romp Bang Bang Baby. A final caffeine shot of the James charm and swagger. Enough to make career-maker Jools Holland wake up and smell the coffee, perhaps.

By now everyone is alert to her talent and potential – regardless of where her journey through the fickle world of pop takes her. Bianca promises London that she’ll be back – she will, and probably at bigger venues. Ciao Bianca!

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  1. […] Read our Live Review of Bianca James’ gig at the Strongroom bar in London here […]

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