Harcourt, Ed/New Buffalo : London Shepherd's Bush Empire

Ed's bookshop days are well and truly behind him...

The critical fanfare afforded to the lonely beauty of Ed Harcourt's 'Here Be Monsters' album has elevated him to a position he's not prepared for. Later this evening he'll confess twice he doesn't know what happened to get him here.

Although he's not exactly playing Wembley, tonight is a step into the relative Big Time. A little perspective - this is a man who six months ago performed in a bookshop.

But first it's a wobbly first step into the spotlight for new Heavenly Records trio New Buffalo, who struggle to capture the organic spookiness showcased on debut single '16 Beats'. Instead, nervous vocalist Sally Russell attempts to project herself to more than the first three rows, suggesting that the New Buffalo experience might benefit from more intimate surroundings. Still, early days.

Ed Harcourt However, has made the effort. Decked out in a snazzy suit and tie for effect, and backed by trumpet, grand piano and double bass for ambience, his passion makes it clear he doesn't want to become just yet another, depressing flash in the pan English singer/songwriter.

Highlights from 'Monsters', like the delicate 'Shanghai' are spliced with new material. Songs like the Elton John-inspired 'Watching The Sun Come Up' in particular make the strongest impression.

So, tonight Ed Harcourtpasses a major test, mainly because of his ear for a tune and undeniable self-belief. He might not understand how he got here, but for everyone else it's becoming increasingly obvious. His bookshop days are well and truly behind him.

Julian Marshall

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