Exclusive Review: Novo Amor @ Islington’s Union Chapel

A Newfound Love for Novo Amor: Welsh singer-songwriter brings his ethereal act to Islington

The congregation erupted with applause as Ali Lacey walked onto the stage under dimmed lights in Islington’s Union Chapel: a 19thcentury church that also serves as a music venue. This was the fifth night of Lacey’s frequently sold out tour of the UK, Western Europe, and the United States, featuring his debut album, ‘Birthplace’.

Lacey—better known by his stage name, Novo Amor—is no charismatic preacher. As a person, he comes across as quiet, reserved and even a bit awkward. His appeal lies in the mix of his passionate falsetto vocals and the backing power of the band (which included frequent collaborator, producer, and songwriter Ed Tullett), as well as his shy humor showcased between songs. While no single song stood out on its own (though Birthplace, the album’s namesake single, did sound great live), the show flowed along beautifully, held together by naturalistic themes featured in the set design, lighting, and music.

On stage, the microphone and instrument stands were wrapped in vines. The light design for the show was reminiscent of aquatic environments. On one occasion, white light beams glowed above the audience during a particularly muted instrumental section, which gave the illusion of sunlight penetrating the waves of a clear ocean. Another instrumental section involved violin to create a sound similar to that of a whale, and at another point, it was if the squeaking and clicking of dolphins was mixed into the music. Lacey attributes the influence of nature on his music to his childhood in Wales: “It’s an accident really,” Lacey said after the show. “I think it’s more of the landscape I grew up in. My music naturally lends itself to this kind of ethereal nature. It just lends itself to that naturally.”

Lacey’s affinity for the natural world goes beyond his live shows. One of the main features of the Birthplace tour is its efforts towards sustainability: “We’re looking at different charities and ways to offset our carbon emissions and not use plastic on tour and things like that,” Lacey said. Those charities, specifically Julie’s Bicycle and Energy Revolution, work to with the creative community to promote sustainable practice and reduce the impact of creative industry behaviours, such as touring. T-shirts for the tour are printed on organic cotton using solvent free, water-based inks, and ‘Birthplace’ vinyls and posters are made using recycled materials.

Additionally, the visually stunning music video for the Birthplace single, made in collaboration with Singapore-based company Zen Freediving, promotes environmentalist action to clean the world’s oceans. The video follows the experience of a free diver whose day in the water is interrupted by the invasion of plastics, represented literally through footage of litter and metaphorically through a large whale constructed out of plastic that swallows the diver.

Lacey was supported by Swedish singer-songwriter Anna Leone, whose rich vocals accompanied by mesmerizing acoustic guitar filled the room. The single spotlight shone on her reflected off the guitar and shot a beam of light through the artificial-smoke-filled atmosphere. Her set—simple and dreamlike—was a gorgeous, atmospherically-appropriate introduction to a great night of music.

Leave a Comment