Pines: Live at Notting Hill Arts Club

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Tonight at Notting Hill Arts Club is one of those live music nights where we’re contracting frostbite in the queue outside, and then transitioning to sub-saharan temperatures indoors, as the venue is so rammed. It’s busy for good reason though, as we are seeing the debut live performance of Pines — the new musical alter ego of Jack Mercer, until now best known as lead singer of indie outfit, The Carnabys.

The Carnabys were a force to be reckoned with, make no mistake. But a few notes in, it becomes quickly apparent that there’s going to be a greater buzz to accompany this fresher, more exciting sound. Pines takes the stage with his backing of band and brass, clad in a white boiler suit (brave, considering the climate of the venue), and they launch into their set, opening with Embers, an apt name for a scintillating first number.

It was already known that Jack Mercer possesses a stunning voice, but over this more classic Pines sound, he sounds almost new, and somehow better. The crowd are with him every step of the way, and not just brought along on the strength of his voice, but also thanks to his charisma fully owning the stage throughout. Thankfully, Pines ensures that he brings along some musicians who can keep up with him — the musicianship is quite excellent all round, from the bass all the way to the brass front line.

The songs themselves are very moreish, a couple of which are now available to listen to stream on Apple Music and Spotify, though for me, it's Martial Art which takes this alt-soul sound to quite possibly the most epic place it’s been yet. A great little surprise is Pines’ rendition of Where Is My Mind — the Pixies' classic is completely transformed into something entirely new, and it’s a delight.

The fact that Pines’ first show is at a sold out Notting Hill Arts Club, and that he nails it to such an extent, is all you really need to know — it’s a name to watch out for. This set contains songs that deserve to go all the way, and I can’t see any reason they won’t.

Words Adam Protz