Puma Blue – The Hope & Ruin – 22nd February 2018

Photo by Liam McMillen

So far this year, the musical trend of 2018 appears to be that of the bedroom project. Whether it’s with American Gus Dapperton, whose laid back slacker pop has seen him winning plaudits all over the world, or with Norway’s boy pablo, who has become a viral sensation, there’s an enormous amount of people making music from their homes and an increased clamouring for that music from audiences. Puma Blue, the South London indie-jazz revivalist, have been doing exactly the same thing too, with most of his tonally dark and sultry tunes written in the early hours of the morning. Surprisingly, though, his live music output, which was seen at a sold-out Hope & Ruin last week, packs more of a punch than his sensuous recorded music, with it having a steelier bite and more indie vigour.

The first support on the night came from Chloe Bodur who, impressively, brought a whole load of people down to the small Brighton venue at the opening of doors. There’s a glamour and charisma to Bodur, who is currently studying at BIMM, that is earning her a deserved amount of attention. Her live performance shows an immense amount of maturity, as if she’s been playing these venues for years and, indeed, I could certainly see her pricking up the ears of the older generation. With debut single, ‘Glory’, there’s more than a little bit of a Paloma Faith vibe, with her easy-listening voice sounding melodic and dazzling, with a lovely quirk.

Next up was Puma Blue’s very close friend, and bandmate, Lucy Lu. In one of the finer support slots I’ve seen in recent memory, he brought a jazz vibe steeped in funky basslines that got the crowd incredibly excitable. More than a couple of times I could overhear people muttering in appreciation to their neighbours, with the artist himself applauding the front row of the audience for their marvellous feedback. ‘Outlines’, in particular, is an exceptional jazz tune that features a saxophone solo that had the audience spontaneously applauding in unison.

By the time that Puma Blue arrived on stage, The Hope & Ruin was as busy as I have ever seen it. One thing that was instantly clear was that Puma Blue’s an artist that’s exciting a lot of people. Whether that be with his Great Escape show last year, which earned rapturous acclaim and an insane amount of word of mouth, or with his sublime 2017 EP Swum Baby, people were packing themselves in as close as they could to get to the stage. For an artist of Puma Blue’s young age, it could have been something that would have intimated him but, like with most things, he took it in his stride.

It’s not often at gigs of these sizes that people know so many of the songs that are played, but this was the case on the night. With loud cheers for the starting notes of many songs, it’s clear that Puma Blue has managed his way into people’s subconscious with his hook-heavy musical aura. The best reaction of the night came for his hit, ‘Soft Porn’, which, like many of his songs, sees him gloomily yearn over a girl. The opening line: Pick up the fucking phone” is sung back to him by a large number of the crowd and, in a nice touch, he asks for the lights to be dimmed, giving it a beautiful ambience of what you’d imagine his creative space to look like.

Likewise, ‘(She’s) Just a Phase’ showcases the mixture of laid back jazz, alt-pop, and husky vocals that has earned him similarities with the growing London scene that includes the likes of Cosmo Pyke and Ezra Collective. The most impressive aspect tonight, though, is how tight his live band are. At times, it’s a little bit heavier than his recorded work, but this helps his performance become all the more captivating. Puma Blue is an unbelievably talented artist that performs like an artist far beyond his years and, for everyone who was lucky enough to be in his presence at The Hope & Ruin, it felt like a real moment for an artist on the rise.

Liam McMillen

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