Review: Oscar Speed – HMV Live – 30 January 2014

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HMV in Nottingham’s Victoria Shopping Centre has been supporting local music and local artists for the last few months, and their support extends to actual performance opportunities for local musicians on Thursdays (now from 5-6pm). One such musician graced the HMV ‘stage’ to treat us to an hour-ish set on the 30th January, his name… Oscar Speed.

At 20 years old, what struck me instantly about Oscar was his personality and his stage presence. He’s confident but not arrogant, and is very smiley, which helps the audience warm to him. He looks dapper, dressed in a casual suit-like get up, and looking clean only helps with the musical ‘pop’ aesthetic. The opening number of the afternoon was an original entitled Hold You which is sweet and gentle, but with lively pop features. It’s a great start to the set, and with a cheeky grin and happy delivery, the audience were already sold.

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Following his opening number with a cover of Mayer Hawthorne’s The Walk brings an air of 50’s soul to the set, and with juxtapositional lyrics of heartbreak combined with the joyful pop melodies it brings a playful edge. His vocals are subtle and not overworked, which suits the song well, and fits in with his aesthetic. He follows with another cover; Treasure by Bruno Mars. He sings the song really well, and his acoustic delivery of this pop number brings out elements to the song such as the sweetness of the chord progressions and his vocals bring out some more romanticism in the lyrics.

He is also joined on stage by a second guitarist, David Newton, who supports him. They are both playng acoustic guitar, and when David plays fingerstyle over Oscar’s chords, it works well. Sometimes when they played chords together, they both subsequently become a little heavy, and cloudy, and a little more consideration to the arrangements of the guitars could bring out the more subtle features of their songs, which would really support both the performer’s talents.

Another original follows with ‘Butterflies’ which is another sweet song about love and romance, which tends to be Oscar’s favourite topic. He follows this with a great cover of Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell which brings some 60’s rock and roll to the mix, which suits his voice well, and brings another change of pace to the gig. They seemed to really enjoy performing this one, and the audience reacted really well to this.

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The audience remained keen to see more for the next cover which was Happy by Pharrell Williams. For this number, Oscar sang some really lovely falsetto vocals at points, which were confident, strong and clear, but were lost amongst the guitars a bit. Standing closer to the mic would have balanced it out better, and helped us hear his fantastic voice. The guitars were a little out of sync in this number, and they both seem to harness different strumming patterns. Again, just a little arrangement and practise would iron this out completely. But having said that, the audience was loving it, and were happily obliging during the lyrics “clap along if you know what happiness is to you”, and seemed to be saying that Oscar Speed provided the happiness in that moment.

The next few numbers really showcased Oscar’s vocals, proving them to be strong and really quite gorgeous in the higher registers as well as the lower ones. His vocals are clear, smooth and executed superbly. His originals are well written with considerations being taken to melodic structure and chord progressions, and they fit the pop mould very well, with cheeky lyrics and a smiley delivery, it’s impossible not to like Oscar Speed. Finishing the set on an impromptu encore desired by the audience, they pull out a cover of This Love by Maroon 5 which really ends the set with a bang, with everyone dancing and singing along. Oscar commands the room and supplies a fantastically entertaining set, and I look forward to seeing how his career develops in the future.

Review and Pictures by Cassia Helme

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