Since footage from Gabriels’ debut London show in Oxford Circus went viral on Twitter in mid-October (“truly, I’ve never seen a gig as extraordinary,” commented one attendee) there’s been no hotter ticket in town. The LA neo-gospel outfit looked positively spellbinding that night, with ethereal single ‘Love and Hate in a Different Time’ commanding cheers, handclaps, and elation at an evidently packed venue The Social.
Since then, it seems that the band have barely left London’s epicentre, holing up in a brand new venue on the cusp of Chinatown and rehearsing hard. Below Stone Nest — a run-down, chipped-wall cavern next to a fire station – provides the site of tonight’s surprise show, and there’s a buzz about the place that anticipates the magic that’s to come.
The band file silently onto the stage dressed uniformly in black – aside from their commanding frontman Jacob Lusk, whose white embroidered suit basks in a cold, blue light. Gabriels cast a stillness over the crowd with opening numbers ‘Innocence’ and ‘The Blind’; brooding like a death-march, as dark bassy throbs underscore the chiming pianos and handclaps. It’s a sound not dissimilar from the chilling electronic blues of Gil Scott-Heron and Richard Russell’s masterful 2010 album ‘I’m New Here’. A three-part gospel choir continues to moodily coo as the sharp strings and tip-toeing melodies of new single ‘Blame’ threaten to go full Succession.
Then, all of a sudden, the moody facade is demolished. Lusk’s fixed gaze turns to a beaming grin during ‘Love and Hate in a Different Time’, and unbuttoning his double-breasted jacket, he unleashes the full power of his sensational, trilling vocals as the lights turn a bright, glowing orange. With soaring strings and a thumping pace, Gabriels ignite the room with a fever rush of elation. It is emphatic – we’re five songs in, and the band have already ascended through the roof. “Y’all good? Y’alright?”, Lusk jokes at the climax. He’s met with an uproar.
Hereon, the band confirms what’s evident: for Gabriels, the only way is up. “We’re gonna have a praise the Lord moment,” Lusk bellows, leading the crowd into an ecstatic call-and-response chant: “If you love somebody, baby, you should tell them every day”. The pace turns spirited once again in the midst of a trio of triumphant new tracks that close the main set. Finally, with sweat and elation hanging in the air, the band take a request before making their exit: a dynamic rendition of ‘Professional’, combining solemn piano and double-bass with an oozing, soulful refrain.
“If we had a chance to do it all again, tell me, would we?” Lusk lures, with one of his final utterances into the mic, projected by that brilliant, warbling voice. The answer to the question is absolutely, yes.
‘Love and Hate in a Different Time’
‘To The Moon and Back’