Amber Falconer and her Talented Friends
MK11 Music Venue and Sports Bar is a converted barn on a farm now engulfed by the all encompassing Milton Keynes. It is a good space with a nice stage, equipped with a more than adequate if not slightly over the top, sound and lighting rig for the size of the room. However, I heard the most ridiculous reason for being refused a coffee: "We are not allowed to sell hot drinks as it is a live music venue" - WHAT? Screen off the stage and it is just a pub with tables and chairs serving hot food as in many other pubs that host live music. you can't even have a coffee after a meal for goodness sake. Service was otherwise OK without being particularly good. But drinks? alcohol or soft drinks, that's your lot.
I was there to quench a long held thirst to see Amber Falconer and KJ Lonsdale-Perkins again. These two very good friends, sing both together and as solo artists. They had put together this charity concert in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support and the Lymphoma association. It was one of several that these two girls support around the Buckinghamshire area. This one was billed as "Amber Falconer and her talented friends." Which proved to be the case throughout the evening.
Amber and KJ opened the show with a lively duet version of Pitch Perfect's "You're gonna miss me when I'm gone." The soundtrack percussive effects brought to mind the Anna Kendrick "Cup" version. It was an up tempo start to the show which began bang on time. This small thing is something of which better known artists could take note. KJ then left the stage to Amber who after a Justin Beiber mash up at the piano launched into one of her own songs "Into you" which includes a line "I see you coming, a smile in your eyes" There was a smile in the audience's eyes and they recognised the quality of this girl's writing. She has yet, at the time of writing, to attain the ripe old age of sixteen! A trip through the songbook of the American metalcore band, Stray from the path, produced "These things have to fall apart". Then Amber launched into her first C&W song of the night, Dolly Parton's "Jolene" As a member of the older generation it is gratifying to observe that some teenagers are now discovering Country songs. Amber Falconer is skilled on both piano and guitar. I first saw her perform when she was fourteen, when she had already written several songs. I was knocked out then and continue so to be.
Amber then introduced Jamie Keiran. I had not seen this young man before. Immediately I was drawn to him because of his slightly Jazzy style, but also as he was playing a guitar like the one I own (I know: how shallow and easily swayed am I?). It may only be a small guitar, but he got a big sound out of it. He opened his set with a Justin Bieber hit, "Cold Water" which includes the refrain, "I won't let go, I'll be your lifeline tonight" This young chap needs no lifeline himself, as he is a singer and guitarist of obvious talent. His set consisted mainly of covers of contemporary male artists like One Direction, Chainsmokers and Leon Bridges, whose "coming home" had a nice rhythm going. He did venture into a bit of vocal gender bending as he covered Beyonce Knowles' "Drunk in love" in a full unexpurgated version!
Jamie does write his own songs, for one of which, the backing track he recorded at home on his phone, so he sang the thoughtful lyrics in harmony with himself, Isn't technology wonderful? Another original contained the line "Best friends are best friends who fool around" so he is demonstrating that a young man's fancy may indeed turn to love, not necessarily just in the spring. For about half his set he accompanied himself on guitar and the rest were sung to backing tracks. He did come unstuck on one number, a cover of "Let me go" by Maverick Sabre. Unfortunately the backing track was too loud, overpowering even his robust voice. His was an interesting and diverting set of just the right length.
Next on stage was KJ who I think is marvellous. She opened her first proper set with Bastille's "Pompeii" playing her guitar. During an earlier part of the show, sitting on the stage, it must have got knocked and was badly out of tune. This could have upset a lesser performer, but this confident young lady chatted away to the audience quite unaffected by the potential embarrassment while she quickly rectified matters. The girl has a wicked sense of humour and delights in setting her mother into tears as she sings a KJ original "I'm coming home". I hope this gets released soon on a forthcoming CD.
A bit of gender bending again now as she launched into an Ed Sheeran number "The A Team" I was amused to hear her singing a love song to another girl. However that is probably my fertile imagination working overtime. That said it is a lovely song. Another superb original song brought this section of her set to a close. "The girl in the mirror" was probably the best song in the whole set and surely another candidate for release. It was well received in the room and rightly so.
A tall striking blonde dressed all in white struck out with "Valerie" the Zuton's hit brought to the attention of many more by Amy Winehouse. So Robyn Wilson's clear diction and pleasant voice began to ring in our ears. Incidentally, Robyn, along with KJ and Amber is a graduate of the Big Help Academy, (see separate article) So the local music scene has much for which to thank BHM. Robyn is another who can write good original songs, "Flame" is one and "I don't want to wait" is another. One Direction's "Drag me down" and Katy McAllister's "Amazing for a minute". I particularly liked the cover of "I kissed a girl", the Katy Perry number. The same can be said of "This love" originally by Maroon 5. "Heroes" and "Black magic" brought her set to and end. Robyn has a compelling stage persona and it will be nice to attend another of her gigs.
Amber Falconer returned to the stage and once again delved into her box of newly discovered (at least for her) box of country songs for "Right now". Then she picked up her guitar for the song which prompted me to drive to Milton Keynes to hear. "Proud" written some time ago now, has been recorded with full backing track, but I, like many of her friends, prefer the acoustic original version which she delighted us with on the night. Through both her sets, she proved to be a consummate performer, totally accomplished. This fifteen year old really does write some mature and cultured lyrics. I know that when I was her age I wouldn't be writing anything as refined as she does. Even though she is a songwriter of note, she still covers songs which she likes. One of these is the Ben E King number "Stand by me", another is "Daddy's Little girl" Nipping between backing tracks, guitar and, piano, Amber kept us entertained with "Grenade".
KJ joined her friend on stage for a couple of duets which included offerings from Sam Smith and Miley Cyrus. Perhaps with her new interest in Country music, Amber should take a listen to Miley's dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, He only had one big hit, but he sang a lot of good country songs too. Amber left the stage to KJ for her second set which included "I'm yours" which I think is a Jason Mraz original. Then she sang a Bruno Mars song which she acknowledged as a "man's song" namely "When I was your man". Now I sometimes sing "a woman's song" in one of my sets, but at least I have changed it to the third person. What is it with kids these days? Mind you KJ only has to flash one of her lovely smiles and she can get forgiven for anything, although whether her sisters, who were in the audience would agree is perhaps another matter. The concluding songs were "It's my home" and Greenday's "When September ends".
I was so glad to see the girls again and I will make every effort to reduce the time between visiting each of their concerts in the future. It was a lovely show and hopefully with the door money and the bucket collection a reasonable amount was raised for two very worth while causes. I have had first hand experience (twice) of the excellent work that MacMillan Cancer Support do and the specific work on Lymphoma is particularly important. if you wish to do so, you can donate here: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/lymphoma.