Luke Sital-Singh performing at The Portland ArmsPhoto by Georgie Atkinson

Springing out of the audience, Luke Sital-Singh embodied the title of his recently released album Dressing like a Stranger when he stepped onto the stage. Appearing as though he could have been a graphic designer attending the gig after work, the artist immediately captivated his audience with his raw vocals.

The London born, L.A based songwriter noted that this was his first gig in Cambridge for four years, swiftly noting how the current exchange rate was working in his favour. Naturally his cynicism was greeted by a collective groan and grimaces from the predominantly middle-aged audience.

Sital-Singh was able to take my breath away from the outset

Ironically, I noticed that during the opening track Still I hadn’t taken a breath due to the overwhelming combination of the kick pedal, bass and vocal work. Sital-Singh was able to take my breath away from the outset. Interweaving tracks from his new album, such as Blind Missiles, with an ease and adeptness that made it seem as though they had always been a permanent fixture of his repertoire. In a time of uncertainty, Sital-Singh’s new work, whilst perfectly soundtracking the emotions and turmoil that we may face, could be a depressive step too far for some.

Throughout the performance, there was a slightly forced co-dependent relationship taking place between artist and audience. Sital-Singh subtly understood that his work pushes his audience to explore their own emotions whilst also openly noting that he was nervous about playing his newer work. Therefore, in response to the audience cheering a little louder at the newly released tracks, Sital-Singh kept checking that the audience was not sobbing too greatly over their gin and tonics only to then note with a wry smile that the next track was "even more depressing."

A multi-instrumentalist, Sital-Singh here plays the acoustic guitarPhoto by Georgie Atkinson

An unassuming venue, The Portland Arms is a gem on the Cambridge gig circuit, despite initially appearing to be the entrance to a garden shed at the back of the pub, the venue allows for an intimacy that other venues do not offer. On this occasion it allowed Sital-Singh the opportunity to take requests from and closely interact with the audience despite some slightly awkward moments, including when an audience member misremembered a track title.

He was able to perfectly encapsulate an element of grief which is incredibly hard to personify

Not for the faint hearted, the track Killing me was the standout of the set. The amount of emotion that he was able to imbue in the lyrics, "I’m living happily, but I’m feeling guilty", was truly mesmeric. Sital-Singh was able to perfectly encapsulate an element of grief which is incredibly hard to personify.

Notably, I overheard one audience member note, "oh, I’m going to have to go home and cry after this", during the middle of the performance. Although their comment notes how repressed we are emotionally as a society, it does speak to the communal sense of anguish Sital-Singh’s music provokes.


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There was a cathartic sigh of joy when Sital-Singh started playing his most popular song in collaboration with Old Sea Brigade, Call me when you land. The audience once again revelled in the opportunity to quietly reflect and shed a tear.

The main frustration with the performance was the persistent self-deprecating nature of the artist prior to performing most tracks. Initially charming and winning over the audience, by the end of the set Sital-Singh’s lack of confidence in his ability became rather grating.

But despite my misgivings, Sital-Singh’s wit between songs juxtaposed with the rawness of emotion in his performance is reflective of the human experience itself. We could all be deemed guilty of attempting to mask our emotions with self-deprecation. However, the impact of Sital-Singh’s lyricism is reticent to how the power of human emotion will permeate through, however hard we attempt to mask it.