ISAAC GRACIE, Hackney Empire – Evening Standard, 27 April 2018

Isaac Gracie’s claims of nerves – a pre-show beer to quell a panic attack, early delivery of a song called Terrified – would have rung a lot truer if he wasn’t dressed in a mostly unbuttoned tropical shirt, bright red flares and stack heels. Here was a man who intended to be looked at.

The 23-year-old from Ealing must be getting used to it. His song Last Words, a crackly, ancient-sounding acoustic ballad when he first put it online almost three years ago, now has a lustrous string section and is one of Radio 1’s most played songs. It hasn’t quite made a star of him – his debut album sneaked into the outer rim of the top 40 last week and the top tiers of his biggest London show to date were closed – but more and more people are noticing that this former choirboy has a voice that goes all the way to the rafters.

He gained confidence as the night went on, theatrically fixing a potentially embarrassing microphone tangle during the simple, pretty Love (Ain’t Always So Good). However, he often struggled to peep out from beneath his heavyweight influences. His rich vocals aped Jeff Buckley’s emotional quiver, he covered Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released, and Hollow Crown recalled Leonard Cohen’s stark poetry.

A couple of songs suggested other directions for him. Running on Empty belatedly allowed his trio to sound like upbeat powerpop rockers. The Death of You & I was an appealing oddity, a slinky groove that erupted into a thundering chorus.

A few too many understated slow ones left him fighting slamming doors and audience members who had apparently accidentally bought a concert ticket on their way to a pub catch-up. But that voice is something to be confident about – an instrument worthy of a bright red outfit.

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