With a voice as big as her boots, former Perrier Jazz Vocalist of the Year winner, Julia Biel was not fazed by the intimate amphitheatre-like performance space at the Minerva Theatre. In the surrounding seats, the people of Chichester were looking down on her but she stood her ground. She was as comfortable seated behind the grand piano as she was standing with an electric guitar.
Self-taught, she seemed to hold the guitar awkwardly, but she made a great sound and jammed along with her band just fine. Along with drummer Patrick Illingworth and bass, Idris Rahman she performed songs from her albums ‘Not Alone’ and ‘Love Letters and other Missiles’ as well as from her upcoming album.
They ranged from jazzy ballads like ‘Nobody Loves You Like I Do’ to more upbeat almost trip hop songs like ‘We Watch the Stars’. The drummer who also plays in Soothsayers (a reggae-influenced band which Julia also sings with) made his debut as a backing singer on the new single ‘Wasting Breath’. As with the band Rotait, singing drummers can be great. If he had broken out a kazoo, that would have been a different story.
Although Julia has a definite jazz quality, especially in the lower registers of her voice, it was versatile enough to cover the variety of genres included in her music such as soul folk and pop. When she brought out her own arrangements of standards such as ‘You Go to My Head’ and ‘Feeling Good’, the unique style and quality of her voice really came to the fore.