Jessy Lanza and Loraine James in London

  • The Canadian pop artist warms hearts at one of the last parties London may see for a while.
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  • Space289, formally Redon, is an unassuming, 250-capacity spot under a railway arch just off the busy Cambridge Heath Road. Inside it feels like a small, dark aircraft hangar. Black drapes fall from the side of the stage. Before the gig, I hadn't heard much about it, and despite fears of a global pandemic, the show had sold out. At peak time, you wouldn't have known anything was amiss. There wasn't anywhere near the level of drop-off you might have expected—or, really, any at all. But then last week was a totally different world. Today, London seems destined for total lockdown; last Wednesday, most of the UK had no idea just how severe the situation was. The harsh, noisy sounds of Loraine James wasn't a natural precursor to Jessy Lanza's retro-leaning pop, but the Londoner was brilliant nonetheless. A good many fans had made it down early to check her out. The venue's punchy soundsystem highlighted the dance floor weight of tracks like "Glitch Bitch" and a remix of Cardi B's smash hit "Bodak Yellow." Big tempo shifts kept things interesting. Monochrome visuals glitched behind her, at first black and white, then red and black. They matched the music so well I was surprised to learn they hadn't been designed especially, a detail betrayed only by the file name briefly flashing on screen at the end: "visuals for party." Lanza opened with "Kathy Lee" and kept the hits coming. I knew I loved her music, but I didn't realise how much of her back catalogue I was holding in my head until I was experiencing it live. When she played her new one, "Lick In Heaven," the video played behind her. The crowd was receptive and respectful, dancing yet almost silent, waiting to clap just as the last notes faded. To cue the next track, Lanza would quickly jump from the front of the stage, where she had been singing and dancing, to behind her setup. Watching Lanza live, I was confused: why isn't she more of a household name? It was almost surreal seeing her in a venue this intimate, though I'd wager she often plays these kinds of spaces. You could feel this excitement in the crowd, too. No one let up chanting "one more song" until she and her keyboard player returned for a couple more. After they had exited the stage for good, most people in the crowd, rather than leaving, made a beeline for the back of the room and huddled around the merch stand.