10:49 | 19th February 2019

Reviews: Live Shows

Tue 14 Feb, 2012
By Robert Ingham

It’s so refreshing to have a singer comfortable enough in their own skin to be out

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Little is known in the UK about Ezra Axelrod, but this is all set to change as his show “Songs from the American Motel” will prove. Ezra is a rather cute 25 year-old, openly-gay singer/songwriter from the US, who moved to London in 2008 to pursue his musical career. Honing his skills as a very talented pianist and lyricist, he has settled into a month’s stint at the Leicester Square Theatre in London’s West End.

The venue is an extremely intimate affair.

As you walk into the venue’s basement you are greeted with the instruments, a screen at the back and a bed in the middle, only a few feet from the audience. It is almost claustrophobic but when the band of 2 guitarists, 2 backing vocalists, a drummer and a violinist jump through the door cat-calling for Ezra, it quickly feels like you are one of the gang invited along to watch your pals jamming.

Then in walks Ezra, dressed only in a towel, sits down at the piano and plays ‘Prayer from the Dressing Room’, taken from his debut album. There is a sense of the show warming up but once the album’s title track, American Motel, begins you feel in safer hands. Throughout the show Ezra tells anecdotes from his life – about growing up, his Oregan roots, his grandmother and his crushes on teachers – interspersing them with catchy, playful songs such as ‘Loud and Clear’ and ‘Southern Way’, and songs of lost/found love (‘Hurricane Season’, ‘Strangers’ and ‘American Motel’). Outstanding numbers are ‘Father’, an emotive nod to family, and the simple, wonderful, gorgeous and radio-happy ‘Ten Million Lights’.

American Motel showcases not only a great performance from Ezra, but some stand out moments for the backing singers, Tim Oxbrow and Dwayne Washington, who absolutely shine through-out, with incredibly tight harmonies sweeping across. They act each song as if this was the only thing they were born to do. It also helps that they are visually enriching.

On the negatives, of which there are two, the show would suit a bigger venue. Whilst it is lovely to be in such close confines to the performers, there are a few times when it feels too much like you are at school assembly. By taking it into a bigger space the audience are able to watch the whole picture and would allow Ezra to twirl around the stage without tripping over feet.

The only other criticism is with Ezra. There is no doubt whatsoever that he is a mastermind of piano and song-writing, but it would have been even more captivating to see him out from the behind the ivories more often, bringing someone else in to play, and watching Ezra simply perform. Take away the comfort blanket and let’s see him show every emotion. The songs are so lyrical and heartfelt; the only thing that sometimes lacked was conveying the sentiments to the audience.

These two things aside, it is a great evening and you will surely be tapping your feet in time to the beat, and leave with a few numbers repeating in your head in days to come, in which case you can download his album on iTunes.

It’s so refreshing to have a singer comfortable enough in their own skin to be out, and writing songs about men falling in love with other men. With a little bit of work on performing, Ezra will be a force to be reckoned with. Talent will out. And in his case, the out part has already been done.

‘Songs from the American Motel’ is on at the Leicester Square Basement, Leicester Square Theatre, until March 3rd. Show begins at 7pm, with no interval.

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