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Review: Before Breakfast @ The Upper Chapel

Given that Before Breakfast have been so synonymous with the inclusive and progressive side of Sheffield’s music scene for a while now, it’s perhaps a surprise that their first album, I Could Be Asleep If It Weren’t For You, was only released last year.

Never a band to rest on their laurels though, just a year on from their first full length effort comes a brand spanking new EP, Absorbed, and it’s for the launch of this new, five track offering that we find ourselves amongst the pews in the beatified surrounds of Norfolk Street’s Upper Chapel on a (not quite biblically) wet Thursday evening.

Before Breakfast's

‘We have a laff, don’t we!’ Gina Walters. Photo credit: Claudia Rose

I say we, as tonight for the first time I’m joined at an evening gig by my daughters (aged 8 and 6). Already massive BB (and Gina) fans, I’m often treated to renditions of Wreck or Buddleia as they belt them out from their bedroom; they are super psyched to see it live.

More from them later though, first it’s worth mentioning tonight’s support. Sadly, we didn’t arrive in time to see Amy May Ellis (parents will relate), but we were lucky enough to catch the super-talented Sheffield Music School and Tracks graduate, Harris.

Harris performing at Before Breakfast EP launch

Harris. Photo credit: Claudia Rose

Asked to perform by Before Breakfast after they were introduced to the 16-year-old Sheffielder’s prodigious talent while tutoring him at the Sheffield Music School, Harris positively revelled in the opportunity, lifting the roof (spire?) off the Chapel. His short, and often vulnerable solo set was a joy. One to keep an eye on, for sure.

Following the wide-eyed innocence of Harris’ performance, hush fills the chapel as we await the entrance of Before Breakfast. Keeping it local, they take to the stage wearing coordinated smock dresses, created especially for the band by Sheffield-based designer Nyoo.

Before Breakfast

Lucy Revis. Photo credit: Claudia Rose

Live BB member and singer-songwriter in her own right, Molly Clark (keyboards), makes her way up to the raised pulpit, while Emily Stancer (guitar), fellow live member and talented designer (she made the duck badges on sale at the merch stand), joins BB founders Gina Walters (lead vocals) and Lucy Revis (cello) on the stage below.

We all wait. The tension builds… Nothing happens. A few more anxious stabs at the synth… “Well, that was going to be so cool!”, says Gina, feigning exasperation. The crowd finally breathes out and laughs along with her. At Emily’s encouragement, they make their way off the stage to ‘have another go.’

Synth issues resolved, back out they come to a rapturously supportive welcome, and at the second attempt they burst into a beautiful rendition of Chosen, taken from the new EP. The vulnerable lyrics and glorious harmonies were worth the wait. But don’t take my word for it; My girls, previously restless in the unforgiving seating, are instantly transfixed, starry-eyed, mouths wide open.

They remain in their state of wonder (save for a bathroom break), as the band make their way through what is by now a finely tuned back catalogue. They comfortably hold the audience’s attention for an hour long set that floats by and leaves me wondering just how they aren’t signed yet?

Before Breakfast

Before Breakfast’s Gina Walters, Lucy Revis and Emily Stancer. Photo credit: Claudia Rose

The talent and sheer song writing prowess on show is a different level. There’s nothing else like them and they speak to so many people in such a profound way. Looking around the audience, there’s a congregation of smiling faces.

This evening, they are also supplemented by Gina’s inclusive, upper voices choir, Neighbourhood Voices, as well as Oh Papa bassist, Phillipe Clegg, who provides rumbling double bass foundations, complimenting Lucy’s haunting cello melodies. The choir adds an even more ethereal quality to the bands already lush harmonies, bringing to life stomping, emotional crescendos of tracks like Wreck.

Before Breakfast

The Charity shop Bear Teapot raffle. Photo credit: Claudia Rose

Initiated Before Breakfast regulars will also be familiar with the raffle portion of the show. If you’ve not seen them before, stay with me. Lucy loves charity shops. Before each gig she seeks out the worst thing she can find in a charity shop and raffles it off during the show, with the proceeds going to charity.

Tonight’s offering is the above bear teapot, which fetches a whopping 50 quid, generously donated by audience member and Dorothy Pax owner, Richard Henderson. He blows my six-year-old daughter’s £20 bid out of the water. I’m not too sad about it tbh!

Following the show we head back out into the rain and all that’s left is to give the final word to my, by this point, pretty tired eight-year-old: “It was amazing, dad!”, and I think that about sums it up.

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