On the whole, it is safe to say that Dover doesn't really have the x-factor. These days it's more readily associated with the Brexit factor, but on a squally Friday night, as the rain lashed down and the wind whipped around the Western Docks, a little slice of (2012's) The X-Factor came to town, Lucy Spraggan. Famed for performing one of her own songs as her opening gambit on the popular TV show, she rocked up at the Booking Hall as part of her UK and Ireland tour.
Spraggan, who until the age of eleven, she recounted, lived only twenty miles away in Canterbury, came to Dover with another artist from Kent, Katie Kittermaster. 19-year-old singer-songwriter Katie, from Cranbrook, accompanied by guitarist Ben Steele, are supporting Lucy on her 30-plus date tour and were first out to entertain the crowd at this sold-out show.
Katie kicked off her set reminiscing about 'borrowed' clothes from her ex-boyfriend as she sang her song 'T-Shirt', mixed it up with covers from Ed Sheeran ('Castle On The Hill') and Cyndi Lauper ('Girls Just Want To Have Fun'), and kept it real with a plea to her friends who'd decided to take the more conventional route of going to uni after school on 'Don't Forget About Me'. In her Day-Glo nail varnish, platform kicks and diamanté belt, Kittermaster drew the crowd in with her distinctive vocal and elfin charm. Kittermaster showcased new material, which her manager said she should dedicate to Brexit, in the form of the 'Disaster Dressed As Fantasy' and closed out her succinct but successful set with her latest single 'Sunday Afternoon'.
Lucy Spraggan took to the stage of The Booking Hall in Dover to great applause from the enthusiastic crowd of widely differing age ranges. She was on fine form, interacting continually with the audience, telling anecdotes between each of the tracks and encouraging sing-a-longs a plenty throughout the night. Lucy started with the title track from her last album, 'Today Was A Good Day', and followed it with her swipe at her lack of air-play (Morrisons radio aside) with 'Don't Play This On The Radio'.
The first sing-a-long of the night came as she invited the captivated crowd to choose from either lyric on 'Loaded Gun' (...or the alternative, lonely goat!). She took inspiration from her sister's Facebook page on 'Lucky Stars', imparted her love/hate relationship for London on 'London Bound', even dropping in her knowledge of the DFL (Down From London) phenomena that the South-Coast is particularly partial to. For all the haters she'd encountered following her X-Factor performance, she played out an impassioned 'Love Is The Best Revenge' and for potential house buyers looking for a fix-me-up she performed 'Home Wasn't Built In A Day' (That was after she'd told the audience that if they were thinking of buying a project that required work instead of one that wasn't, "my advice: don't").
Spraggan paused mid-set to take a breath but also to gather herself as she questioned her thought process ahead of the cover that she'd decided to take on. "John Lewis Advert, 2020" she said before delivering a quite brilliant cover of The Proclaimers 'I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)'. The stripped back version with just keys and vocal was a high point of the set and one which the crowd thoroughly enjoyed as they sang along. Lucy played a quite apt (given the weather outside) 'Lightning', an affectionate 'Tea And Toast' and of course her song that started it all, and "a song that I'll have to play for the rest of my life", 'Last Night (Beer Fear)'.
It wasn't 'Last Night', or her final song dedicated to P&O 'Unsinkable', however, that resonated or connected the most. The song that Lucy performed that will live longest in the memory was 'As The Saying Goes'. Every other anecdote on the evening was entertaining, heartfelt and humorous but it was clearly not the first time she'd told some of these stories; if you've been to a Lucy Spraggan gig before, it's odds on that you'll have heard most of them. She's a born entertainer, that's what she does. What happened before and during 'As The Saying Goes' was not as slick or as rehearsed and clearly emotionally affected her. Lucy's preamble about self harm and mental health issues was very real and very emotive. The performance that followed was the very best of the night. The mixture of singing and spoken word expressed so passionately left a lasting impression.
The show was over all too quickly, and there was to be no encore, but it had been a very entertaining, and in part revelatory, evening spent with two very different, but very talented singer-songwriters.