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27 May 2004

Paris UK Tour
London, ULU

Supported by Damien Dempsey. "Like A Hurricane" was on the setlist as an encore, but not played. Gig attended by Robert Plant.

Motel 74
Into My Blood

Let It Fall

Review by Lisa Verrico

4 out of 5 stars

PLAYING Britain must feel like a bump back down to Earth for the 25-year-old Carina Round. Six months ago, the Birmingham-based singer and songwriter was signed by America’s largest record label and has so far spent this year in New York and Los Angeles being treated like a proper pop star.

Jack Nicholson, Marilyn Manson and Lou Reed are among the celebrity fans who have turned up to her shows. The US press has raved about her records and she has been staying in smart hotels and going shopping with a stylist.

In Britain, however, Round is still little known, despite eight years on the road and support slots with everyone from Turin Breaks to Ryan Adams. At the University of London Union (ULU), she didn’t even top the bill. When she took to the stage with her three-piece band, there were only a few dozen fans at the front and a patchy cover of others who may have heard her name, but not her music.

If Round was disappointed, she didn’t show it. She threw herself into a spellbinding set that mixed ferocious rock with funky folk and rootsy blues. One minute, she could be singing sweetly to beats and double bass, the next howling like Patti Smith or P. J. Harvey and attacking her guitar.

On paper, it probably sounds too odd a combination to be commercial, but heard live Round’s songs had a toe-tapping rhythm, arresting vocals and enough twists and turns to keep the audience rooted to the spot. Indeed, by ten minutes into the gig, the ULU had filled up with stragglers from the bar who stood open mouthed at the intensity of the songs.

By then, Round was confident enough to try to crack jokes. After In My Blood, an infectious single that got nowhere near the charts, she thanked “all the radio stations for not playing it and making it credible”. When her drummer broke his snare, she suggested that the audience have an orgy while it was being fixed. Admittedly, the music went down better than the jokes, but the chat helped people who had no idea who Round was to warm to her.

What even new converts must have found hard to understand is why Round isn’t famous already. Her set was taken from The Disconnection, an album she released on her own label last year, and there wasn’t an average track among them. Lacuna and the current single Paris were soft and melodic enough to slot into daytime radio, while the mesmeric set closer Monument, to which Round did a sexy dance, was truly spinetingling.

You suspect that she can’t go unnoticed for much longer. Then again, she’s probably been telling herself that for years.

Originally online at The Times