“We believe in the strength and power of female friendship,” declares JJ Mitchell, one half of Overcoats, “and the things you can achieve when you stand by a woman.”
But actions speak louder than words. So Mitchell and her best friend Hana Elion begin and end the show with a long embrace. They spontaneously drape their arms around each other. During moments of emotional intensity, they lock eyes across the stage. And, after the final song, Mitchell piggybacks the injured Elion (torn ligaments) out of the venue.
Their singing is equally unified, two voices intertwining delicately as the New York City-based duo present the full arc of their sleek debut LP Young. A collection of tender R&B pop that pairs their warm vocals with stark rhythms, it’s perfectly suited to the intimacy of St Pancras Old Church, with the fairy lights on the floor only adding to the tenderness captured in songs like Smaller Than My Mother.
“He makes me smaller with every embrace that I ask for,” they sing forlornly over spare beats, their open-hearted delivery pulling in the audience from the start. Hold Me Close, up next, is even more beguiling. An honest love song about “finding solace in the present when the future and past seem impossible to understand”, its silken melody complements striking words like “He’s a man of warnings, talks like I need to know/ But he’ll always own the ground I walk alone”.
Just as articulate is Nighttime Hunger, which opens with the line “Nighttime hunger eats at me like I’m supposed to be alone” and steadily rises to a dramatic refrain of “when the darkness comes”, big on beats and emotions. The majestic 23, which boasts lush synths and fingersnap rhythms, as well as live guitar and keys from Elion and Mitchell respectively, provides the perfect contrast to the almost acapella Little Memory. The first song the pair ever wrote, the ballad is as exquisite as it is engaging, the perfect companion to their equally spare and moving rendition of Hozier’s Cherry Wine.
Leave The Light On, which features enthusiastic dancing from Mitchell while Elion looks on longingly from her stool, ramps up the energy considerably as it breaks out into full-blown gospel mode. Complete with gutsy vocals and prerequisite hand claps, the soaring anthem is rather fitting, considering the venue.
With its angelic dueting, the poignant Mother is just as suited to the church setting, bringing the evening to a close with a sense of peace and harmony that clearly reflects the friendship of the two women on stage.
Live review of Overcoats @ St Pancras Old Church by Nils van der Linden on 24th May 2017. Photography by Edyta K.